Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clark's Northside Center


A portrait of two important black social scientists and a broader history of race relations, this important work captures the vitality and chaos of post-war politics in New York, recasting the story of the civil rights movement.

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Children, Race, and Power: Kenneth and Mamie Clark's Northside Center

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A portrait of two important black social scientists and a broader history of race relations, this important work captures the vitality and chaos of post-war politics in New York, recasting the story of the civil rights movement.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1946, Northside Testing and Consultation Center was founded to provide mental health care to minority children in upper Manhattan. Under the Clarks, best known for their tests in which black children routinely chose white dolls over black ones tests cited in Earl Warren's Brown v. Board of Education decision, Northside battled a social service system "whose primary function... had come to be to rationalize its failure to help Harlem's children." By the mid-1960s, the Northside mission had changed to include providing its clients and their families with "an individualized anti-poverty program," which increasingly translated into advocacy and aid in negotiating the education and social welfare bureaucracy. While this is an institutional history, complete with details of power struggles and policy disputes, it is more significantly a history of racism, with the Center as a window on racial inequality in the mental health profession, education, housing and social welfare systems. The authors make good use of oral histories, papers and interviews from the Clarks and the Center's staff and board members, thereby animating the book with a sense of personal commitment. This important, informative tribute on the Center's 50th anniversary powerfully reminds us that opportunities for America's inner-city youth have changed little. Photos. Oct.
Library Journal
Harlem's Northside Center was founded shortly after World War II under the direction of Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The Clarks' noted study of African American children's preference for white dolls over black ones played a key role in the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Along with sponsoring neighborhood mental health programs Northside was active in the struggle for school integration, New York's Model Cities, and urban renewal programs. throughout its 50-year history. Garnering support and cooperation from its employees, board members, and parents, history professors Markowitz and Rosner (Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the Politics of Occupational Disease in 20th Century America, Princeton Univ., 1991) have written a discerning and objective history of the institution. Their book successfully bears witness to the Clarks' pioneering work on children and societal racism. A fundamental text in the currently raging debate on race and class. Strongly recommended for all sociology collections.Michael A. Lutes, Univ. of Notre Dame Lib., Ind.
Kirkus Reviews
An arresting study of the tumultuous history of Harlem's Northside Center for Child Development, its indomitable founders, and the community it serves.

Historians Markowitz (John Jay Coll.) and Rosner (Baruch Coll.) not only present a timely study of the center (currently celebrating its 50th anniversary), but offer valuable insights into postWW II race relations in New York City. Social scientists Kenneth and Mamie Clark, the center's founders, initially achieved recognition for their "doll studies," in which African-American children repeatedly expressed a preference for white dolls. The results of these studies influenced the 1954 US Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and were decisive in the establishment of the Northside Center. At this child guidance center, the Clarks envisioned a staff of black and white professionals successfully serving an integrated clientele. A black child's self-esteem and self-respect would be most likely to rise, the Clarks contended, in such an environment. The authors document how remarkably successful the Clarks were in securing funds from wealthy white benefactors—until the civil rights dream ended in the turbulent 1960s. Integration was never attained in Harlem institutions, particularly its schools, and the call for integration eventually turned into a battle for community control of schools. Increasingly, the races were pitted against one another, and the alliance between wealthy liberal patrons—particularly Jewish contributors—and African-American leaders got tangled in webs of mutual suspicion. Markowitz and Rosner pay tribute to the Clarks' persistence and dedication in keeping the Northside center going, continually meeting the needs of a community in crisis.

Far more than an account of one Harlem clinic, this offers an intimate glimpse into contemporary struggles over race and power, and into the lives of the parents and children most impacted by these struggles.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415926713
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 12/2/1999
  • Edition description: 1ST ROUTLE
  • Pages: 326
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

College and CUNY Graduate Center. David Rosner is Professor of History and Public Health at Columbia University and Co-Director of the Program in the History of Public Health and Medicine. Their earlier publications include Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the Politics of Occupational Disease in Twentieth-Century America (1994); Slaves of the Depression: Workers' Letters about Life on the Job (1987); and Dying for Work: Workers' Safety and Health in Twentieth Century America (1989).

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1 The Abandonment of Harlem's Children 1
2 The Northside Center for Child Development 18
3 Philanthropy and Psychiatry, an Exercise in White Power 43
4 Children Apart: Education and the Uses of Power 90
5 "The Child, the Family and the City" 130
6 Juvenile Delinquency and the Politics of Community Action 180
7 Urban Renewal and Development and the Promise of Power 217
Essay on Sources 253
Notes 259
Index 291
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