“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men."
- Frederick Douglas
WHO TAUGHT YOU TO HATE YOURSELF?
The Clark Doll Experiment (1939) was an experiment done by Dr Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie. In 1954 in Brown v Board of Education the experiment helped to persuade the American Supreme Court that “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites were anything but equal in practice and therefore against the law.
It was the beginning of the end of Jim Crow. In the experiment Clark showed black children between the ages of six and nine two dolls, one white and one black, and then asked these questions in this 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’,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a white child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a coloured child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like a Negro child,”
“Give me the doll that looks like you.”
“Negro” and “coloured” were both common words for blacks before the 1960s. The last question was the worst since by that point most black children had picked the black doll as the bad one. In 1950 44% said the white doll looked like them! In past tests, however, many children would refuse to pick either doll or just start crying and run away. In the test that he did that became part of Brown v Board he asked 16 black children in 1950 in Clarendon County, South Carolina. Of these 63% said the white doll was the nice one, the one they wanted to play with. Clark also asked children to colour a picture of themselves. Most chose a shade of brown markedly lighter than themselves.