Guest columnist

The Black Doll Project


Black dolls make a difference in the world.

This statement is a reminder of the importance of developing self-identity, embracing cultural heritage, and fostering self-awareness. As early as three months old, children begin to notice race. Research has demonstrated nine-month-old babies categorize faces according to race.
By three years old, children begin to connect certain racial groups with negative traits and characteristics.
These early experiences of race shape how children see the world around them and influence their identity formation. It is important to provide opportunities for all children to learn and grow. A history lesson related to the importance of Black dolls can guide children and families on this learning journey.
The process of developing positive self-identity was explored during the legendary U.S. Supreme Court case, Brown v. The Board of Education (1954). This case effectively paved the way for ending racial segregation in public schools. The plaintiffs, represented by future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, used the “Doll Test” (known as the “Clark Test”) to show the damaging effect of racism on the development of Black children. The test was created by two psychologists, Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark. Black children were asked basic questions about the intellectual capacity and worth of Black dolls in comparison to white dolls.
Tragically, the overwhelming majority characterized their Blackness as “looking bad” and not a “nice color.” When asked which doll was most like the Black child, children in Massachusetts cried, refused to answer the question, and some even ran out of the room abruptly ending the research engagement, according to Dr. Kenneth Clark. The results of this experiment were used to support the decision to desegregate the schools and create equal access to education for all – no matter the color of your skin. It was an acknowledgment of the detrimental effect of racism and White Supremacy.
Sixty-seven years after Brown v. The Board of Education, we still mourn these devastating examples of the damage done by systemic racism on all children. Dr. Kenneth Clark shared these conclusions after years of research, “racism was an inherently American institution, and school segregation inhibited the development of white children, too.” (NAACP Legal Defense Fund) Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not cite these conclusions in Brown and these challenges still persist today. The unfinished work of Drs. Clark compelled us to take action with the launch of the Planting People Growing Justice Black Doll Project.
Following a social enterprise model, the Black Doll project donates a doll to a child in need with the sale of each doll. Our first doll – Miss Freedom Fighter Esquire Doll comes as a supplemental learning tool to the book, “Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire.”

Leadership Challenge:
Help a child to discover their beauty and unveil their limitless potential.
Positive Affirmations – Create daily affirmations to remind your child about their beauty and brilliance. You can begin by helping your child to create three powerful “I am” statements. Examples include: I am strong. I am smart. I am beautiful.
Images – Post and hang images within your home which reflect the beauty and great intellect of people of African descent. For example, post a picture of the legendary entrepreneur (Madam C.J. Walker) or the first Black Congresswoman (Shirley Chisholm). Hang artwork from African artists which embody positive images of black children.
Reading materials - Invest in reading materials for the special young person in your life. These books will serve as a source of inspiration while aiding them in discovering the leader within.
Share our PPGJLI Pledge - Encourage the young people in your life to R.I.S.E. to new heights by learning these leadership characteristics: Respect, Integrity, Self-Awareness, Engagement.
To learn more about the PPGJ Black Doll Project, please visit:

Suggested readings:
• “Akua is Great” (2021) by Dr. Artika R. Tyner
• “Amina of Zaria: The Warrior Queen” (2021) by Dara Beevas
• “Black Barbie” (2020) by Comfort Arthur
• “I know I Can!” (2015) by Veronica Chapman
• “Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire” (2017) by Dr. Artika R. Tyner and Jacklyn Milton
Through her organization, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Dr. Artika Tyner seeks to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach.


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