Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kenneth Clark, April 7 and 15, 1964

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - The New York City public school system

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Partial Transcript: Fresh tape, fresh tape, new tape, fresh tape.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark gives his reaction to a statement Reverend Galamison made about the destruction of the public school system, more specifically the New York City schools. There is also a discussion of other options for solving inequality in education.

Keywords: Appeals; Battles; Board of education; Confusion; Data; Disadvantaged areas; Emotional impact; Forgotten; Harlem schools; Impulsive statements; Judgment; Mass movements; Methods; Protests; Psychologists; Public school systems; Reality; Remedy; Reverend Milton Galamison; School boycotts; Social change; Society; Solutions; Techniques; Urban League

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights; Civil rights movements--United States; New York (N.Y.); Public schools; Segregation in education.

00:09:14 - School busing and integration

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Partial Transcript: In that connection, uh, what do you think of the busing proposals?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses the plan to bus African American and Puerto Rican children into white, middle class schools in New York. He also talks about Reverend Galamison's choice to put his children into the private school system.

Keywords: African American communities; Black communities; Board of education; Busing proposals; Civil rights groups; Controversy; Criminals; Democratic education; Ghettos; Glendale (N.Y.); Inferiority; Minority groups; Open enrollment plans; Opposition; Private schools; Public schools; Racial prejudice; Reverend Milton Galamison; Suburbs; White children

Subjects: African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Busing for school integration; Education; Integration; New York (N.Y.); Race discrimination.; Race relations

00:15:35 - A divide in the African American psyche

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Partial Transcript: May I switch the topic a little bit?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses Du Bois' evaluation of African Americans' psyche in reference to being an American and/or African.

Keywords: African heritage; Ambivalent; Blood absorption; Commitment; Consequence; Continuity; Cultural unit; Evidence; Image; Missionaries; Opportunity; Oppression; Psychologists; Savages; Significant; Society; Split

Subjects: Africa; African Americans--Race identity.; Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963.; Identity (Philosophical concept)

00:21:11 - Reflections on the past--Long-term effects of slavery and national identity of African Americans

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Partial Transcript: Have you read a book by Stanley Elkins called "Slavery"?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses the psychological effects of slavery that have been carried into modern times. He also talks about how African Americans may have different reactions depending on where their ancestors were slaves. Dr. Clark attempts to explain the definition of a "real past" and how that compares to the history of American Jews.

Keywords: "Sambo"; Achievements; Advantages; African American community; Ambivalence; Belongingness; Black community; Burdens; Catastrophic events; Catholic culture; Colonialization; Cruelty; Cultural continuity; Deculturation; Dehumanization; Difficulties; Disruption; Existential advantages; Experience; Fantasy; Fusion; Future; Heritage; Historical records; Humanity; Logical; Majority; Malcolm X; Minority; Minority groups; Muslims; Oppression; Past; Paternalistic treatment; Populations; Protests; Psychological effects; Reflection; Revolt; Self-image; Slave societies; Society; Spirituals; Stability; Stanley Elkins; Unstable; West Indies

Subjects: African Americans--History; African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Relations with Jews.; Culture.; Identity (Philosophical concept); Psychology.

00:36:03 - Interracial relationships

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Partial Transcript: Do you see more resistance, uh, now to the blood fusion on the part of negroes than in the past?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses African Americans having romantic relationships with whites and the degree of assimilation in relation to success for African Americans.

Keywords: African Americans; Blood fusion; Brutal; Careful; Ethical; Honest; Interracial mixture; Myths; Norman Podhoretz; Paradox; Resistance

Subjects: Assimilation (Sociology); Interracial marriage; Miscegenation--United States; Racism

00:40:33 - The Great Melting Pot myth

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Partial Transcript: There's some argument, of course, among sociologists that the Great Melting Pot hasn't been melting very well.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark attempts to explain the power that is held by groups in the North who have not assimilated into the main culture of the United States.

Keywords: African American population; Division; Great Melting Pot; Irish; Irish Catholics; Italians; Jeopardy; Jews; Migration; Polish Catholics; Politics; Power centers; Preoccupation; Protestants; Urban centers

Subjects: Assimilation (Sociology); Ethnic groups.; Power (Social sciences)

00:43:15 - Defining race and variation of physical characteristics

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Partial Transcript: This is the second conversation with Dr. Kenneth Clark.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark tries to explain the origins and meaning of the word 'race' as it applies to human beings throughout the world.

Keywords: "Negro" blood; "Pure races"; Africans; Ambiguous; Australian Aborigines; Caucasians; Continental Europe; Controversy; Definition; Differences; Environment; Franz Boas; Gradations; Hair texture; Human beings; Interbreeding; Intercommunication; Melanin; Physical characteristics; Skin color

Subjects: Anthropology; Constructs; Race; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Variations.

00:51:29 - Supposed race differences and the values attributed to them

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Partial Transcript: Well, now, this is, um, a scientific perspective--

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses the various perspectives of race in the U.S., Europe, and Africa. He talks about the status and power attached to social differences.

Keywords: "Common Sense"; "Pure negroes"; Africans; Bertrand Russell; Blood sense; Color differences; Complexion; Control; Distinctions; Europeans; Hemophilia; Ideological differences; Inbreeding; Military power; Mixtures; Political differences; Religious differences; South Africa; Status; Superiority

Subjects: African Americans--Race identity.; Passing (Identity); Race; Race discrimination.; Race relations.

01:01:43 - Africa's role in American slavery

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Partial Transcript: Getting on the matter of race, um, back in African times, how much did, did, did Dahomey--the King of Dahomey--feel itself as racially distinct in its slave raids?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark and Warren discuss the role of African countries in the American slave trade. They also discuss Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad in regards to their opinions about white people and black history.

Keywords: Africans; Charles Baird; Congo crisis; Cruelty; Elijah Muhammad; Ethiopians; Facts; History; Louis Lomax; Malcolm X; Oppression; Richard Burton; Slave raids; Truth

Subjects: Africa.; Dahomey (Africa); Racism; Slave trade; Slavery--United States.; War.

01:07:05 - Abraham Lincoln

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Partial Transcript: What do you think of Lincoln?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark gives his personal views on Abraham Lincoln as a person and as a president, as well as on his approach to ending slavery.

Keywords: Abolitionists; American moral schizophrenia; American racism; Contemporaries; Dehumanization; Deification; Difficulties; Documentation; Ethical confusion; Foreign policy; Gunnar Myrdal; Human beings; Inferiority; Inner turmoil; Lincoln Memorial; March on Washington; Mission; Moral dilemmas; Physical appearance; Risk; The Union; William Fulbright; Women

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights; Ethical problems.; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Views on slavery; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.; Slavery--United States.

01:18:20 - Russian communist advice to African Americans vs. Abraham Lincoln's attitude towards African Americans

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Partial Transcript: Let's not be too hypothetical because I think we could--

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark discusses the propaganda directed at African Americans by Russian communists, comparing and contrasting it with Abraham Lincoln's attitude toward them. He also talks about how the interpretation of American government changes when thinking about the fact that the government was established by slave owners.

Keywords: Abolition; American moral schizophrenia; Benjamin Franklin; Black chauvinists; Declaration of Independence; Equality; Ethical dilemmas; Experiments; Fascism; Hitler-Stalin Pact; Human decency; Human slavery; Marshall Plan; Nazis; Political expediencies; Political practicalities; Priority; Slaves; Thomas Jefferson; Turmoil; William Lloyd Garrison; World War II

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Communism; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865; Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865--Views on slavery; Racism

01:29:40 - Socialist society vs. capitalist society

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Partial Transcript: Do you believe in a socialist society?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark struggles to explain the sort of society with which he most identifies.

Keywords: Capitalist society; Efficient; Socialist society; Societies; Struggles

Subjects: Capitalism; Socialism; Soviet Union

01:31:25 - Robert E. Lee

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Partial Transcript: How--what do you think about Robert E. Lee, after Jefferson?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark and Warren discuss Robert E. Lee and the idea of moral schizophrenia, as well as societies in which it is absent.

Keywords: American moral schizophrenia; Confused society; Determinism; Empathy; James Baldwin; Josef Stalin; Malcolm X; Nazis; Stagnation

Subjects: Ethical problems.; Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870; Nazis.

01:34:12 - Comparing John Brown to Jesus Christ

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Partial Transcript: I suppose what I'm driving at in these questions--well, not a particular answer to the question, but to opening the question of how moral absolutes, ethical ideas relate to historical process.

Segment Synopsis: Clark discusses absolutes and the meaning of the phrase "Freedom Now". He also compares John Brown to Jesus Christ and defines his meaning of "madmen" to elaborate on his thoughts on John Brown.

Keywords: "Freedom Now"; Abolitionists; Accommodations; Alienation; College professors; Commitment; Demands; Disciples; Fanatics; Historical processes; Madmen; Madness; Malcolm X; Martyrs; Moral absolutes; Moral causes; Moral consequences; Morality; Murder; Ordinary society; Pottawatomie Massacre; Reality; Respectable; Rifle clubs; Social fabric; Social justice; Stagnation; Values

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Brown, John, 1800-1859; Civil rights movements--United States; Ethical problems.; Jesus Christ.; Psychology.

01:48:46 - The civil rights movement as a revolution

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Partial Transcript: That is, you are more willing to trust, uh, the orderly process of law and the long range historical process, given human guidance and human--

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark talks about how change can occur. They discuss the term "revolution" in reference to the civil rights movement and the words of James Baldwin.

Keywords: Alternatives; American middle class values; Anguish; Catchphrases; Choices; Desires; Despair; Dissatisfaction; Disturbing; Frustration; Lorraine Hansberry; Military methods; Moral conversion; Society

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions.; Baldwin, James, 1924-1987; Change.; Civil rights movements--United States; Revolutions

01:55:14 - Struggle for power

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask another question about the overreaching techniques that all social movements have, even though it is short of a revolution.

Segment Synopsis: Clark talks about the leaders of the civil rights movement, as well as addresses the accusation that the leaders are "washed up."

Keywords: "Wildcat leaders"; Adam Clayton Powell; Demands; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Flexibility; Irritation; James Farmer; John Brown; Leaders; Malcolm X; Power; Promises; Reverend Milton Galamison; Revolutions; Roy Wilkins; Stagnation; Stall-ins; Struggles; Techniques; Whitney Young

Subjects: African American leadership; Civil rights demonstrations; Civil rights movements--United States; New York (N.Y.)

02:01:13 - Police action and bloodshed

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Partial Transcript: What do you think of the fact that it was reported to me about a man who sat on the Summit Committee in Atlanta--the summit meeting in Atlanta--said a certain man--who shall now be nameless--whose name we all know...

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Clark talks about police action in response to civil rights demonstrations and his stance on using police violence to make gains in the movement. They discuss the history of benefiting from violence.

Keywords: African American police officers; Bloodshed; Civil War; Concentration camps; Courses; Demagoguery; Human cruelty; Human irrationality; Inhumanity; Injustice; Involvement; Madman; Memorandums; Negotiation; Pacifists; Police; Publicity; Social reforms; Stagnation; Summit Committee; Thomas Jefferson; Tragic; World World II

Subjects: Civil rights demonstrations; Civil rights movements--United States; Death.; Violence; World War, 1939-1945