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Coles, Robert Martin : Home

Written by heather Dent

Robert Martin Coles

Robert Martin Coles is a graduate from Harvard, the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University, and the University of Chicago.

In the 1950’s Dr. Coles was stationed at Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. There he witnessed a “swim in” at the beach, a small incident in the early Civil Rights Movement. It moved Dr. Coles to stay in Mississippi and write his first book A Study of Courage and Fear about the children in that region who in his words have come “face to face with a serious social and political crisis” and how they’ve managed to “get along psychologically.”

His most famous work, Children of Crisis, consisted of five massive volumes and was published in 1971. These volumes were largely filled with his notes from sitting with children and listening to what they had to say. During such sessions he suggested no topics or did anything in particular. At first he attempted to fit his subjects into the psychiatric categories, but he soon found them too confining. In these books he portrayed not only a psychological study of children, but of their parents, the land, and the authority figures who shape their lives. He also included drawing illustrated by some of the children he worked with.

Berea College awarded Robert Martin Coles with the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters of Humanity in 1980.

Works Cited

Who’s Who in America 1968-1969. The A.N. Marquis Company. Chicago. January 1, 1969. Print. 

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