Posted on 04/11/2008

Photo taken on January  1, 1947


Gordon Parks Photographer
Brown v Board of Education
Briggs v Elliott
Mamie Clark
Kenneth Clark
Inferiority Complex
Doll Test
African American
For a 1947 Issue of Ebony Magazine

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The Doll Test

The Doll Test
In the "doll test," psychologists Kenneth (b.1914 - d. 2005) and Mamie Clark (b.1917 - d.1983), used four plastic, diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. Almost all of the children readily identified the race of the dolls. However, when asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it.

The Clarks also gave the children outline drawings of a boy and girl and asked them to color the figures the same color as themselves. Many of the children with dark complexions colored the figures with a white or yellow crayon. The Clarks concluded that "prejudice, discrimination, and segregation" caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred.

The Clarks testified as expert witnesses in several school desegregation cases including Briggs v. Elliott, one of the cases that was later combined into the famous Brown v. Board of Education, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court officially overturned racial segregation in public education.

Photographed by Gordon Parks for a 1947 issue of Ebony magazine.