Historic Doll In Brown v. Board Case On Display In Topeka

By: Sarah Plake Email
By: Sarah Plake Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- May 17, 1954 - the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision ending school segregation.

The Brown v. Board of Education site unveiled a significant item used in that court case.

The item, although it might seem very small and unimportant, has a very big story to tell about race relations during the 1940s, before segregation was ruled illegal.

59 years ago the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in schools.

Psychologists proved in that monumental case the practice had deep psychological effects on children.

"African American kids, when they are forced to be segregated in education, they begin to internalize that kind of negative 'I'm different, I need to be treated different,'" Superintendent of the national site David Smith said.

Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Mamie, used a black baby doll in their 1940s study. They also used another baby doll that looked identical, only its skin color was white. They would ask both black and white children which doll was the smartest, the nicest and the prettiest.

"Most of the children would pick the white doll," Chief of Interpretation Dave Schafer said. "Part of their conclusion was that segregation was detrimental to African-American children.

The doll was eventually given away and ended up in Pennsylvania. The owner thought the doll belongs at the Brown v. Board site.

"We are very excited about receiving the doll because it's a very important, tangible reminder of how skin color has impacted how we perceive one another," Shafer said.

It will now sit in an exhibit, to symbolize the gravity of the decision made to end segregation 59 years ago.

"Also to have people consider even today how the color of one's skin does impact how the world perceives you and how you see other people."

Photocopies of the notes Dr. Clark took during the study are on display at the museum, along with the book he published: "Prejudice And Your Child." Administrators are planning to build the doll exhibit to go along with Dr. Clark's.

The room where the doll was unveiled will be totally transformed to look like the Monroe kindergarten classroom did in the 1950s.

To make the room look like it might have in the time period, the museum will hang two Abraham Lincoln prints donated by Joe Swalwell, a local collector. One of the prints is believed to have been hanging in the Lincoln School.

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site announced more free bus tours of Topeka. The tour will take passengers on a ride around locations in the city that are historical and linked to the fight for equality and freedom.

To reserve a seat on the bus and find out more, call Brown v. Board at 785-354-4273.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
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