kenneth-clark

Since February is Black History Month, throughout the month I will try to bring you images and information about Black couples that made an impact and left their mark on Black History. First up is Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The Clarks were both Psychologists who were well-known for there research with children, specifically the doll experiment, where they would give a black child the choice between a black doll and a white doll and then ask them to pick the doll they thought was “pretty” or “nice” among other questions. They would go on later to use their research to testify in the courts for several school desegregation cases. Read more about the Clarks life and work here.

The swing of the hip, what the French call déhanchement, is a motive of peculiar importance to the human mind, for by a single line, in an instant of perception, it unites and reveals the two sources of our understanding. It is almost a geometric curve; and yet, as subsequent history shows, it is a vivid symbol of desire.
—  The Nude
Kenneth Clark
People sometimes tell me that they prefer barbarism to civilisation. I doubt if they have given it a long enough trial. Like the people of Alexandria, they are bored by civilisation; but all the evidence suggests that the boredom of barbarism is infinitely greater.
—  Kenneth Clark
Kenneth Clark

Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in 1914 in the Panama Canal Zone. He grew up in Harlem in the midst of the Renaissance. He graduated from Howard University where he participated in civil rights demonstrations and met his future wife and collaborator Mamie Phipps. Kenneth and Mamie went on to graduate study in psychology at Columbia University, where Kenneth was the first Black person to receive a PhD from the university.

Kenneth Clark became the first Black professor at City College in 1942. Clark and his wife are most known for the “doll studies”, where he presented Black children with black and white dolls to measure their racial preferences and beliefs. The studies were used to show that segregation, with Black students in inferior schools, was detrimental to their self-esteem.

Clark published several books on Black people and racial integration. He was involved in community development programs and served as an advisor on racial issues. In 1946 he and his wife founded the Northside Child Development Center in Harlem. Clark also served as president of the American Psychological Association. He died in 2005.

Clark’s work was groundbreaking. Today, versions of the doll study are still used to measure children’s racial attitudes. Though the studies show that Black children tend to have as high or higher self-esteem than children of other races, representations of Blacks in the media and school materials can lead them to have a negative view of their own race. 

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/02/nyregion/02clark.html?_r=0

Gates, H.L., & Appiah, K.A. (Eds). (1999). Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books.

“People sometimes feel disappointed the first time they see the famous beginnings of renaissance architecture, because they seem so small. Well, so they are, after the great monuments of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

They don’t try to impress us, or crush us, by their size and weight, like all God-directed architecture does. Everything is adjusted to the scale of reasonable human necessity. They’re intended to make each individual more conscious of his powers as a complete moral and intellectual being.”

-Kenneth Clark in Civilisation

(The Pazzi chapel, interior viewed from its dome. Florence, (c. 1430). By Filippo Brunelleschi.)

6

Alexander died, Alexander was buried, 

Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth;

of  earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he  

was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? 

 Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay,  

Might stop a hole to keep the wind away: 

O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, 

 Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!

One of the first ways that I would justify a civilisation is that it can produce a genius on this scale. In his freedom of mind, in his power of self-identification, in his complete absence of any dogma, Shakespeare sums up and illuminates the piece of history [the Reformation] that I’ve just described. His mature plays are, amongst other things, the poetical fulfilment of Montaigne’s intellectual honesty.

But Shakespeare’s skepticism was more complete and more uncomfortable. Instead of Montaigne’s detachment, there’s a spirit of passionate engagement. And instead of the essay, there’s the urgent communication of the stage. 

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.

How unthinkable, before the breakup of Christendom, the tragic split that followed the Reformation. And yet I feel that the human mind has gained a new strength by outstaring this emptiness.  

As if Civilisation, which I am finally watching, isn’t already, every episode, quite wonderful, up pops an unexpected Ian Richardson being Hamlet. 

Kenneth Clark is that most rare and welcome thing - someone who can distill vast and difficult concepts/periods of history into clear, understandable insights. Civilisation is a self-proclaimed personal view, and can’t hope to cover the whole of history and art history in such a short time. But every episode brings moments of recognition, understanding and joy, even of areas I am spectacularly ignorant of (a lot of the pre-Renaissance world, which is the first four episodes). And when he discusses artists and thinkers that I have some or a lot of familiarity with like Michelangelo and Shakespeare it’s not old news - it’s illuminating and enriching.  

I’m trying to ration my viewing because there’s so much richness in every episode (and the restored bluray looks LOVELY as you can see) but it’s difficult, because it’s so damn good. If you ever thought I wish I knew more about *insert period of art history/historical genius/religious history/etc* but I don’t have the time/inclination/energy/idea of where to start then this is a very good introduction to a lot of the Western part of it.  

No amount of that kind of material attempt at equality can ever substitute for the kind of essential dignity, acceptance, and humanity, which every human being, without regard to his color, his religion, or national background, must feel, if he is going to be a fully mature and fully adult human being. You cannot buy it with bricks and mortar.
—  Kenneth Clark, in hearings regarding the elimination of racial segregation from schools in the 1950’s. 

The Lowcountry Digital Library is pleased to announce that we have several new collections online! For the next few days, we will be posting featured pictures from our new collections. Please, head over to our website to check them out! Today’s featured collection: White Pines Series of Architectural Monographs Collection.

Photographs from the White Pines Series of Architectural Monographs. Photograph 23. This particular photograph can be found in The Charm of Charleston: A New World City of Old World Memories on page 6. Captioned: “Meeting Street-St.Michael’s Church and South Carolina Society Hall. Charleston, South Carolina.”

“This collection of gelatin silver photographs by Kenneth Clark consists of the original prints that were reproduced in three issues of the White Pine Series of Architectural Monographs, published by Russell F. Whitehead. The series was intended to provide “intimate treatises of the architecture of the American colonies of the early Republic presented with well ordered completeness, to further a broader understanding and to create a permanent record of Early American architecture.” In 1928, five issues highlighted Charleston architecture. The photographs feature Charleston buildings, street scenes, views, and architectural details. They appeared in three of the five Charleston issues: “The Charm of Charleston: A New World City of Old World Memories” (vol. XIV, no. 2), “Some Charleston Mansions” (vol. XIV, no. 4), and “The Edwards-Smyth House” (vol. XIV, no.6).”

Photograph from the Photographs from the White Pines Series of Architectural Monographs held by the Margaretta Childs Archives at Historic Charleston Foundation.

A margin of wealth is helpful to a civilisation, but for some mysterious reason great wealth is destructive. I suppose that, in the end, splendour is dehumanising, and a certain sense of limitation seems to be a condition of what we call good taste.
—  Kenneth Clark, Civilisation