Mamie Phipps Clark: A Pioneer in Psychology Education for African Americans

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Running head: MAMIE CLARK 1 Famous Person in Psychology: Mamie Phipps Clark MAMIE CLARK 2 Famous Person in Psychology: Mamie Phipps Clark Mamie Phipps Clark was born in Hot Spring, Arkansas on April 18, 1917 to Dr. Harold and Katie Phipps.

Due to her father having a practice in town the family had achieved middle class status and was allowed into many establishments that were normally whites only, which during that time in Arkansas was rarely heard of. Even though few higher educational opportunities were open to black students, after graduating from Langston High School in 1934, Mamie was offered several scholarships and chose to accept one from Howard University. (Cherry,2013) Mamie chose to study at Howard University because it was located in the nation's capital and because of the many accomplished black members of its faculty whom she viewed as role models.

She began her studies at Howard as a math major, minoring in physics. There she met her future husband, Kenneth B. Clark, who was studying for his master’s in psychology. After not getting much encouragement from her professor’s in mathematics, Kenneth encouraged Mamie to change her major to psychology for employment possibilities and the chance to explore her interest in children. (Cherry, 2013) When completing her master’s degree in 1939, she worked and studied children in an all-black preschool.

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During that time she met with pyschologists, Ruth and Gene Harley who were studying self-identification in young children and encouraged Mamie to do the same with the children in the preschool. This resulted in her completed thesis "The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children". (Cherry,2013) MAMIE CLARK 3 Mamie transferred to Columbia University to finish her doctorate degree, where she graduated in 1943 as the second African American to earn a degree (first eing her husband, Kenneth Clark). Then Drs. Mamie and Kenneth Clark used their research with children to show that black children became aware of their racial identity by the age of 3 and by segregating them from white children the children saw their race as negative. This led the Clark’s to present their findings during desegregation trials for the NAACP's case in Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned racial segregation in public schools in 1954. (Mamie Clark, 2013)

After several years working in public and private social services being unsatisfied with what she saw, Mamie founded the Northside Center for Child Development, the first center to provide therapy for children in Harlem. At a time when public schools were illegally enrolling many black children into programs for the mentally handicapped, the center conducted its own intelligence tests, fought the schools, and empowered the local population. Realizing that therapy alone could not address the affects of racism on the community, Northside also assisted families with their housing and financial difficulties.

Mamie Clark worked for Northside until retirement in 1980 and died three years later of cancer. (Mamie Clark, 2013) Using the Sociocultural aspect of psychology, it is easily seen that Mamie Clark was influenced by social and cultural she experienced in her life. Growing up in Arkansas during the times where racism were very apparent and segregation was dominant, she was fortunate enough to have been born into a middle class family. Mamie was able to see both sides of the segregation by being allowed into white establishments.

This had a significant impact on her way of thinking, she wanted to both races to be seen equally and this eventually led to her involvement in the desegregation of public schools. MAMIE CLARK 4 References Mamie Clark, a Supporter of the Black Child. (2013). Retrieved on January 18, 2013 from http://www. aaregistry. org/historic_events/view/mamie-clark-supporter-black-child Cherry, Kendra. Mamie Phipps Clark Biography. (2013). Retrieved on January 18, 2013 from

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Mamie Phipps Clark: A Pioneer in Psychology Education for African Americans. (2017, Jul 12). Retrieved from

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