One day in 1940, young Dr. Kenneth Clark bought four baby dolls in a Harlem Woolworth’s store: two brown, two white, but otherwise the same. They were not for the baby that he and his wife, Mamie, were expecting – but for their psychology experiment in racial identity. Seven-year-old Edward D., one of 300 black children in the study, chose a white doll over the brown ones. “I look brown and they always call me a nigger but I’m not – I’m a white boy,” he insisted. Tabulating the final results, Mamie Clark found that, like Edward D., two-thirds of the kids preferred a white doll to one of their own race.
The Clarks’ dolls test played a key role in the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education litigation in 1954 – their opening act in a long public life together.
They also opened a clinic for disturbed children in Harlem and helped found two War on Poverty agencies: Head Start and Haryou. The most prominent black scholar of his era, Kenneth also founded the nation’s first black think tank and served a pivotal role in the civil rights movement. But if he had never met shy, supersmart Mamie Phipps, the chances are that few would have ever heard of Kenneth Clark. They were FULL PARTNERS.