Cross-posted at DailyKos. From Democracy Now!, about the passing of Kenneth B. Clark:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn 1950 the psychologist published an influential report detailing the destructive effect of school segregation. The paper would go on to influence the Supreme Court in its landmark decision in Brown v. the Board of Education that ruled school segregation was unconstitutional. Dr. Clark was the first African-American to earn a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University. He was also the first African-American to receive tenure in the City College system of New York. He once wrote “a racist system inevitably destroys and damages human beings; it brutalizes and dehumanizes them, black and white alike.”

PHOTO ABOVE: I found this at the Library of Congress’s Brown v. Board of Education exhibit on the Web: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Final Decree, [1952]. The court ordered the two systems to be made equal, but did not abolish segregation. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Supreme Court heard their case along with Brown v. Board.

Obituaries: New York Times and Washington Post.

: : : Poll — and more about Clark — below : : :
A sad note: For some reason, the Library of Congress does not have permission to show the photos of Dr. Clark administering the test to the children.

ALSO: Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIn a remarkably dramatic 1991 mini-series, “Separate But Equal,” directed by George Stevens, the famous and historic doll tests are given to black children by Dr. Clark, portrayed in the film by Damien Leake Sidney Poitier plays Thurgood Marshall. You can purchase the VCRs.

It’s fascinating drama, particularly showing the struggles that Thurgood Marshall went through with other blacks and groups to achieve his goals. There was anything but unanimity on bringing this case to court.


A photo of an integrated school in Washington, D.C. after the decision, from the Library of Congress’s Brown v. Board of Education exhibit on the Web:

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About the “doll experiments”:

At trial in Brown’s consolidated case Briggs v. Elliott, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) presented dramatic testimony by Professor Kenneth Clark of the City College of New York.Professor Clark performed innovative psychological tests utilizing dolls to identify harms inflicted on the plaintiff children due to segregation. Professor Clark described the tests and his conclusion in response to questioning by Robert Carter of the NAACP:

A. I made these tests on Thursday and Friday of this past week at your request, and I presented it to children in the Scott’s Branch Elementary school, concentrating particularly on the elementary group. I used these methods which I told you about–the Negro and White dolls–which were identical in every respect save skin color. And, I presented them with a sheet of paper on which there were these drawings of dolls, and I asked them to show me the doll–May I read from these notes?

JUDGE WARING: You may refresh your recollection.

THE WITNESS: Thank you. I presented these dolls to them and I asked them the following questions in the following order: “Show me the doll that you like best or that you’d like to play with,” “Show me the doll that is the ‘nice’ doll,” “Show me the doll that looks ‘bad’,” and then the following questions also: “Give me the doll that looks like a white child,” “Give me the doll that looks like a colored child,” “Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child,” and “Give me the doll that looks like you.”

By Mr. Carter: Q. “Like you?”

A. “Like you.” That was the final question, and you can see why. I wanted to get the child’s free expression of his opinions and feelings before I had him identified with one of these two dolls. I found that of the children between the ages of six and nine whom I tested, which were a total of sixteen in number, that ten of those children chose the white doll as their preference; the doll which they liked best. Ten of them also considered the white doll a “Nice” doll. And, I think you have to keep in mind that these two dolls are absolutely identical in every respect except skin color. Eleven of these sixteen children chose the brown doll as the doll which looked “bad.” This is consistent with previous results which we have obtained testing over three hundred children, and we interpret it to mean that the Negro child accepts as early as six, seven or eight the negative stereotypes about his own group. . . .

Q. Well, as a result of your tests, what conclusions have you reached, Mr. Clark, with respect to the infant plaintiffs involved in this case?

A. The conclusion which I was forced to reach was that these children in Clarendon County, like other human beings who are subjected to an obviously inferior status in the society in which they live, have been definitely harmed in the development of their personalities; that the signs of instability in their personalities are clear, and I think that every psychologist would accept and interpret these signs as such.

Q. Is that the type of injury which in your opinion would be enduring or lasting?

A. I think it is the kind of injury which would be as enduring or lasting as the situation endured, changing only in its form and in the way it manifests itself.

MR. CARTER: Thank you. Your witness.

Professor Clark’s testimony, while founded on scientific principle, carried great emotional power, and therefore caused vigorous debate among the litigants and scholars as to its import. NAACP counsel Thurgood Marshall, arguing on behalf of plaintiff schoolchildren, asserted the broadest inference that could be drawn from results of these tests: they proved actual harm done by segregated schools.

From “Novel Expert evidence in federal civil rights litigation” by Gordon Beggs (The American University Law Review, 45, 1995), posted here at a Columbia University site.

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