Psychologists Kenneth Bancroft Clark and his wife, Mamie Phipps
Clark, designed the “Doll Study” as a test to measure the psychological
effects of segregation on black children. The Clarks’ “Doll Study” became the first psychological research to be cited by the Supreme Court and was significant in the Court’s decision to end school segregation.
Using four plastic, diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color,
African American children between the ages of three and seven
were asked questions to determine racial perception and preference.
Discouragingly, the majority of the children preferred the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it, while attributing negative characteristics to the black doll. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred. Clark concluded, “If society says it is better to be White not only White people but Negroes come to believe it. And a child may
try to escape the trap of inferiority by denying the fact of his own race.”¹