How an Experiment With Dolls Helped Lead to School Integration

How an Experiment With Dolls Helped Lead to School Integration

The social psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark sought to challenge the court’s existing opinion that “separate but equal” public schools were constitutional (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896) by testing whether African-American children were psychologically and emotionally damaged by attending a segregated school.

As Kenneth Clark recalled in 1985, he would produce white and black dolls and say, “Show me the doll that you like to play with … the doll that’s a nice doll … the doll that’s a bad doll.”

By Michael Bechloss,

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