An arresting study of the tumultuous history of Harlem's Northside Center for Child Development, its indomitable founders,...


"CHILDREN, RACE, AND POWER: Kenneth and Mamie Clark's Northside Center"

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 post-WW 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 fights 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.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996


Page Count: 368

Publisher: Univ. Press of Virginia

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996