What the Children Told Us: The Untold Story of the Famous “Doll Test” and the Black Psychologists Who Changed the World

Sourcebooks. Aug. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9781728248073. $26.99. SOC SCI
Spofford (Lynch Street) has written a compelling biography of Kenneth and Mamie Clarke, the psychologists who developed the doll test. Black children were presented with two dolls, one white and one Black and asked simple questions such as “Give me the doll that is a nice doll” or “Give me the doll you would like to play with.” The children consistently selected the white doll and saw the Black doll as bad. This research was pivotal in the Brown vs. Board of Education case to eradicate segregation in schools. Spofford has delivered a detailed account of the work of these two tireless academics who not only produced exact and measured research, but they were also committed to improving the lives of Black and Hispanic children in Harlem by forming the Northside Center for Child Development. Although Spofford had access to a large amount of professional and personal correspondence, his references to the Clarkes’ personal lives are constrained and do not have the nuances of a good biography.
VERDICT The first book to detail the extensive work of two major contributors on the psychological effects of segregation is a worthwhile addition to collections.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing