dr kenneth clark

The Clark Doll Test was created by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Marmie Clark. It focused on stereotypes and self perception in relation to race. Clark wanted to show that segregation in schools was misconstruing the mind of young African American children and causing them to internalise racism and view themselves as lesser. In the test, African American children ranging from 6-years-old to 9-years-old were shown two dolls - one was white and one was black. They were asked a number of questions such as:  Show me the doll that you like best or that you would 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. The test showed that the children preferred to play with with white doll as opposed to the black doll. The children were then asked to colour in a human figure with the colour of their own skin - the majority chose a lighter shade. As well as this, the children gave the white doll positive attributes such as “good” and “pretty” while describing the black doll as “bad” and “ugly”. 44% of the children said that the white doll looked like them as opposed to the black doll. This test indicated that African American children, even as young as just 6-years-old, suffered internalised racism due to segregation. The findings paved the way for an increase in psychological research into areas of self-esteem and self-concept.

In conversation with Dr. Kenneth Clark, James Baldwin talks about the “Negro and the American Promise.” Interview produced by the Boston public television station, WGBH in 1963.

“….. and there are days – this is one of them, when you wonder, what your role is in this country and what your future is in it. How, precisely, are you going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel, white majority, that you are here? And to be here means that you can’t be anywhere else.”

Today In History

‘Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark, psychologist, was born in the Panama Canal Zone on this date July 24, 1914. Dr. Clark’s research, showing the psychological effects of prejudice on Blacks, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision.’

(photo: Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark)

- CARTER Magazine