When I was a college freshman, a professor described the dolls test in my 8 a.m. child psychology class. The fascinating story woke me up and stuck with me.
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
How did you first get interested in the Clarks?
Did you interview the Clarks?
After Mamie died, I had several intensive interviews with Kenneth and his children, Kate and Hilton. Kate let me review a trove of family photos and papers at her Florida home.
Is that where all the facts in the book came from?
No. I sifted through almost 500 boxes of Kenneth’s papers in the Library of Congress. I found other papers in archives elsewhere and conducted scores of additional interviews.
How do you manage so much information for a biography?
I take detailed notes and keep good filing systems: one for hard copy, one for digital data. Before writing a chapter, I carefully study the right files.
How is the Clarks’ story relevant today?
Their research and social activism focused on the issues of racial identity, school segregation and white racism, issues that continue to divide us.
If the Brown ruling was not based on the Clarks’ dolls test, why are they linked?
As an unpaid consultant for the NAACP, Kenneth provided compelling testimony about the dolls test in the lower courts that surfaced again during U.S. Supreme Court proceedings. Further, a report that Kenneth wrote about the dolls test and other studies of children and prejudice was cited by the Supreme Court in its Brown ruling.
Did you visit the sites depicted in the book?
Yes, in most cases, including a month in Mamie’s hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
How did you stay interested in one couple so long?
The Clarks were such dramatically different personalities that I had to discover what made them click and what sustained their long, fruitful marriage. And I longed to explore their ties to such major civil rights figures as Dr. King, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, A. Philip Randolph, Whitney Young Jr. and others.
The Clarks, 1950s