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PHOTO ESSAY

Brown v. Board of Education

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Kenneth B. Clark

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The professor and social psychologist Kenneth Bancroft Clark devised a simple test that proved to be a powerful weapon in the NAACP's struggle to end segregation in public schools. In Clark's famous "doll test," black children between three and seven years old were shown four dolls—two black and two white—and asked to first identify their race. The children were then asked to express a preference for the dolls by deciding which were "prettier," "better," or which ones they "liked best." The results showed that the majority of black children preferred the white dolls and at times even rejected black dolls in tears, suggesting that racial prejudice and self-hatred was learned at an early age. Clark repeated his test in Clarendon County, South Carolina, one of the school districts addressed in Brown v. Board of Education, and also served as an expert witness in the South Carolina, Delaware, and Virginia cases that were consolidated into Brown. The psychological and social scientific evidence he presented helped convince the court that segregation damaged the social and mental development of black children.

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