Testimony of the Experts
The NAACP-LDEF generally, and Robert Carter especially, had a lot of experience with social-scientific materials by the time of the school segregation trials in 1951 and 1952. Consequently, Carter was able to fashion an argument against segregation that took into account the limitations of scientific knowledge regarding the effects of segregation on schoolchildren.
Many recent histories and commentaries on the social scientists’ role in Brown have focused on the projective tests conducted by Kenneth B. Clark, the “doll tests.” The common claims made about the doll tests— that they were the “only empirical data” submitted to the Supreme Court, that they were referenced in the Brown opinion, and that they were the key to the social-scientific testimony—are simply erroneous.1 To fully understand how social scientists framed their arguments for the court, we must turn our attention away from Kenneth Clark and the doll tests and look to the testimony of all the social scientists.
In this chapter, I do several things: first, I sketch the trial strategy that Carter developed for the social scientists to follow during their testimony, Second, I look at how social scientists coped with two key questions: how to isolate segregated education as the cause of psychological harm, and how to isolate legalized segregation as the cause of psychological harm. Third, because it came to be the focal point of later criticism, I examine the trial testimony of Kenneth Clark in some detail. Finally, I look at the few social scientists who testified on behalf of segregation, especially the testimony of Henry E. Garrett.
Briggs, the first of the four school segregation trials, served as the exemplar for the other three. In the strategy he devised for Briggs, Robert