Mamie Phipps Clark ( April 18, 1917 – August 11, 1983 )
Mad Behavioral Scientist - Under the Microscope
In 1951, a man named Oliver Brown stormed down the steps of an all-white elementary school with his daughter after being told that she could not enroll into school. Oliver was suggested to enroll his daughter in a ‘black’ school that would require a bus ride far from their home. He immediately left and filed a US federal court lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education which began the famous Brown v. Board of Education case. Thankfully, three years later the justice court ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in school was unconstitutional; and this was due to the work of Dr. Mamie Phipps Clark.
Born and raised in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Clark attended many highly segregated schools growing up. She described her elementary and secondary education as “deficient in substantive
areas”, which ignited her fire to study the effects of racial segregation on school aged children. Clark attended Howard University and earned her bachelors and master’s degree with her thesis titled: “The Development of Consciousness of Self in Negro Pre-School Children”. In 1943, Clark became the first African American woman to earn a PhD from Columbia University in experimental psychology, making her a headway in a field that contained predominately all while males.
Clark designed and conducted the “doll test” in the 1940s to study identity and the psychological effects of segregation on African American children. She studied 300 children between the ages of three to seven using 4 identical dolls that differed in skin color. Showing all the dolls at once, she asked each child which doll they liked and preferred the most – leading to disturbing results. The majority of the children chose the white doll as the prettiest and more likely to be good in school, versus the darker skinned doll who was deemed ugly and bad. When asked which doll looked most like them many of the children would cry and leave the room or refuse to answer.
Clark’s study concluded that prejudice, discrimination, and segregation created a feeling of inferiority and self-hatred among African American children and damaged their self-esteem. These findings revealed substantial insights about the effects of the environment on the identity and self-esteem in developing children. Due to this, Clark’s results were the first of social science research to be used in court as hard evidence. Because of her willingness to ask hard questions and address problems head on, the fabric of America’s school system has been changed forever.
A sense of identity is essential for anyone to accomplish their purpose in life. Often times, we find our identity in our jobs, financial status, appearance, etc. which over time proves to be a very shaky foundation. However, when we place our identity in God’s unchanging and faithful character, we inherit amazing promises that prove to you exactly who you are.
“This is probably one of the most dangerous things facing mankind today: A use and training of intelligence excluding moral sensitivity.” – Dr. Mamie P. Clark
1 John 3:1-2 – ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.’
Romans 15:7 – ‘Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.’