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Posts Tagged ‘Kenneth B. Clark’

– Contributed by Lizette Royer Barton with digitization assistance from Jodi Kearns.

Francis Cecil Sumner (1895-1954) was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. He earned his degree on June 14, 1920 under G. Stanley Hall at Clark University upon defending his dissertation, “Psychoanalysis of Freud and Adler.”

 

Francis Cecil Sumner in his doctoral robes.  Robert V. Guthrie papers

Francis Cecil Sumner in his doctoral robes.
Robert V. Guthrie papers

 

Listen to Kenneth Clark comment on Sumner’s high standards when it came to education at the link below.

 

Many of us recognize Sumner’s name because he was a “first.” However, it could be said that the most important part of his legacy was his work in establishing the Psychology Department at Howard University and the teaching and training of numerous African American psychologists.

Sumner joined the faculty at Howard University in 1928. As was common in many historically black colleges, psychology courses were taught in the education and philosophy departments. Sumner believed in order to properly train Black psychologists an independent department of psychology was of the utmost importance. In 1930, with the support of Howard’s president, Sumner established the psychology department and was promoted to full professor and head of the department that same year.

He was assisted in the department by Frederick P. Watts, a graduate student, and Max Meenes, a professor of psychology and fellow graduate of the Clark University doctoral program.

 

Listen to Max Meenes discuss the start of Howard’s psychology department below.

 

Howard offered training up to the Master’s level with a focus on laboratory and experimental psychology.

 

In the audio clip below Max Meenes discusses why they kept the program at the Master’s level and how they prepared students for doctoral work elsewhere.

 

Kenneth B. Clark, Mamie Phipps Clark, Max Meenes, unidentified. 1957.

Kenneth B. Clark, Mamie Phipps Clark, Max Meenes, unidentified. 1957.
Robert V. Guthrie papers

 

Well-known graduates of the Howard University Psychology Department include Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark, both of whom went on to earn doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Kenneth Clark in particular stressed the influence Sumner had on him while at Howard and the importance of his time in the department.

 

Listen to Kenneth Clark talk about Sumner’s influence on his own education and career as a psychologist. 

 

To learn more about Francis Cecil Sumner please check out Robert V. Guthrie’s seminal book, “Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology.” And to learn even more pay a visit to the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology and take a look at the Robert V. Guthrie papers, which include the incredible sound recordings featured above.

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~ contributed by CHP student assistant Adam Beckler.

Saturday, May 17th marked the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. This landmark Supreme Court case overturned the doctrine of “separate but equal” that was established by Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. The Supreme Court’s unanimous 9-0 decision stated that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Brown v. Board of Education was the central starting point for ending segregation in American schools and marked a major victory for the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

Kenneth B. Clark

Kenneth B. Clark

The Supreme Court’s decision was influenced by the work of social psychologist Kenneth B. Clark. Clark and his wife Mamie studied the psychological effects of skin color on young black students.

From the Center for the History of Psychology’s exhibit on Psychology and Social Change:

“The Clarks examined the racial preferences of 253 African-American children from segregated nurseries and public schools. The children were presented with four dolls – two black and two white. They were asked which doll they would like to play with or which doll they liked best. More than 65 percent of children chose a white doll.”

“Testimony given by Kenneth Clark and other psychologists was used in Brown v. Board to argue against segregation in the schools…This was the first time that social science research was explicitly cited in a Supreme Court decision. “

 

Exhibit in CHP Psychology Museum

Exhibit in CHP Psychology Museum

Part of the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. book collection, Racial Identity in Context: The Legacy of Kenneth B. Clark edited by Gina Philogène uses Clark’s work as a foundation to discuss the role of racial identity in the ongoing struggle for equality for African Americans. Racial Identity in Context examines topics including, but not limited to, racial integration today, the role of racial identity in managing daily racial hassles, resilience and self-esteem in African-Americans, and immigration.

Radical Identity in Context: The Legacy of Kenneth B. Clark

Radical Identity in Context: The Legacy of Kenneth B. Clark

The Brown v. board case was significant in the social history of the United States and it was also important in psychology’s history. As Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. and Ellen M. Crouse suggest in the book’s conclusion, the Brown v. Board of Education decision “marks the public validation of psychology as a science.”

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