Supreme Court Hearings and
Decision, Brown I
For two years, between October 1951 and December 1953, social scientists were working with the NAACP-LDEF on the appeal of the school segregation cases. Initially, the work done on the appeal was done within an official committee of SPSSI, but soon Kenneth Clark began to dominate the project, assisted by various friends and associates within SPSSI. While this activity was going on, Clark faced another problem— his doll studies were coming under increasing public scrutiny, and he was forced to explain just why it was that northern children seemed to suffer more damage than southern children. The end of this phase of the litigation was the Supreme Court decision that found segregated schools violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The prominent mention of Kenneth Clark’s name in the opinion brought another round of criticism directed at the doll tests. The two rounds of criticism serve as bookends to the appeals process for the first Brown decision.
In February 1952, a law student at Yale, William Delano, was working on a Note for the Yale Law Journal that which focused on the school segregation trials. He had noted the discrepancy between Clark’s testimony and the Clarks’ data in their 1947 article. After meeting with Clark, Delano asked for an explanation of the seeming contradiction between Clark’s claim that legal segregation caused psychological damage and the higher percentage of northern children who identified the brown doll as the bad doll.
A week before the Virginia trial, Clark wrote to Delano that “children in racially segregated schools are more seriously damaged in the area of self-esteem than are Negro children in a racially mixed school.” Northern