COLOR OF MAN
Design: Allen Porter
COLOR OF MAN 10
16 mm., sound, color
From a scientific point of view color is
standard by which to judge people nor something to be completely
Science is the never ending search for why things happen as they do,
to the scientist color is only one among many things in nature to be
studied and carefully analyzed. When we want to learn the real
about something we go to the scientists for them, and in such an
question as the color problem, only through considering the most
evidence available can we gain a true understanding.
COLOR OF MAN:
Illustrates the latest scientific theories on the development
color differences in the pre-historic past. This accompanying
guide provides a means of answering the questions most usually
by the film. In addition to discussing the genetic -
basis of color differences, this study guide also contains the latest
as to what having light or dark skin really means today.
the Film Shows:
an exciting combination of animated drawings and live action
the film presents a simplified summary as to how different skin colors
came to be. Traveling back in time, we see those conditions which are
to have brought about the development of color differences among
men. Returning to the present, we are shown how many people still
the same areas where their skin colors originally developed.
The film points out that the very dark and light examples shown
from extreme conditions of strong and weak sunlight. Between them there
are almost infinite degrees of shading.
The film concludes by demonstrating that the forces which brought about
color differences long ago have been all but overcome by modern science
There is a great need to help students become aware of the dynamic and
important role played by the life sciences. This film has been
used to point out how the biological structure of the skin and its
material, along with the physiological functions involved, rather than
being dry, esoteric bits of information, are really the keys to
one of the basic human problem facing our nation today. The principles
presented here are basic not only to skin color, but to all other
differences as well.
Causes Skin Color Differences?
The presence of different amounts of pigments scattered through the
layer of the epidermis causes skin color differences. The most
of these pigments is the brownish-black substance called melanin.
Melanin is present to some degree in all people. Individuals who lack
completely are called Albinos.
Those of us with dark brown or black skin have a great deal of melanin.
Others of us who have medium or light brown skin have less of it, while
those people with very light brown or "white" skin possess very little
melanin. The different skin colors are seen because, while the
of the melanin in different people is the same, the amount of it is not.
is the Function of Melanin in the Skin?
The skin is protected from sunburn by the grains of melanin in its
and lower layers. The melanin absorbs the ultraviolet rays in the
sunlight before they can injure the sensitive sweat glands, blood
and nerve endings in the lower layers of skin.
the Amount of Melanin in the Skin Ever Change?
If we stay out in the sun too long, we risk getting more ultraviolet
can be absorbed and thus get painfully burned. If the skin isn't burned
too badly, however, it reacts to the ultraviolet by producing more
than it had before. This increase in the skin's melanin that follows a
sunburn is called suntan. By building up a tan through a series of sun
baths most people can develop enough protective melanin to permit them
to stay out in the sun for longer and longer periods without burning.
Do Different People Tan to a Different Degree of Darkness?
Both the skin color at birth and the amount of melanin that one can
as suntan are determined by one's heredity. Depending on the skin color
genes we inherit from our parents, some of us who are born with very
skins can become deep brown after a summer in the sun, while others of
us can't get a tan no matter how hard we try. Yet no matter how deep a
tan a person gets, it never becomes permanent. It is but a temporary
which fades away after a few months out of the sun, leaving only the
Do We Inherit Our Color From Our Parents?
Skin color, like all other heredity traits, is carried in the
and genes and follows the basic laws of genetic inheritance. It is
to depend upon some six to eight gene pairs. Although it affects the
- the largest single area of the body - skin color is a relatively
trait when compared to the shape of the nose, or other such complex
There Any Relationship Between Skin Color and Other Physiological
Despite a great many attempts to establish some connection between dark
skin color and physiological characteristics such as physical weakness,
lack of coordination, deficiencies in the brain or nervous system, or
of resistance to disease, there has been no valid information to
such theories. In many places poor living conditions have caused a
incidence of disease and undernourishment in certain peoples. This
coincides with differences in color because, in such places as the
of the United States, and even in New York City, dark skinned people
the poorest economic class. This is because, although slavery was
more than a century ago, the descendants of the slaves have been kept
a low economic condition. In those places where dark skinned people
an equal living standard no significant differences in the incidence of
disease or other undesirable characteristics has been found between
and their lighter skinned neighbors.
Anthropology and International Relations
The same vast distances and differing geographical and climatic
which produced skin color differences between large groups of people
responsible for the development of differences in language and culture.
The further away people came to live, the greater the differences in
their physical and social characteristics could become. Today modern
of transportation are bringing people from every part of the world into
direct contact. Both within communities and nations, and on an
level as well, people of different languages, cultural background and
colors share mutual problems and responsibility. Understanding how our
skin color differences originated can help the student to understand
how all the other human differences came to be.
Did Different Colors Develop in Different Areas of the World?
All the evidence found to date seems to indicate that all human beings
came from one common ancestor, and that we originated in some tropical
or sub-tropical area, perhaps in Africa or Asia. It is also
that the color of the first human being was medium brown. Most people
the world today are still of medium color. The dark and light extremes
are in the minority.
As the descendants of the first human slowly wandered out over the face
of the earth, they came to live under extremely different climatic
Through the action of natural selection, their skins became darker in
lands where darker skin was best and lighter in those other places
light skin was most advantageous.
Despite the vast migrations of the past, especially during the 500
since Columbus, a great many people still live in those regions where
skin colors originally developed. In general, the darkest peoples are
those latitudes with the strongest sunlight; the lightest men in those
with the weakest sunlight; and most of mankind, being some medium hue,
in those areas of medium sunlight intensity.
There Any Connection Between Intelligence, Imagination, Emotional
Or Cultural Achievement and Skin Color?
Skin color differences are inherited physiological traits. Cultural
imagination, etc. vary depending on the society in which one lives and
the opportunities in education and career it provides.
Dark skinned children in Tennessee, where schools are poor, were found
to have Intelligence Quotients of 58, far less than the 100 which is
average for the nation as a whole. On the other hand, dark skinned
in Los Angeles, which has much better schools, were found to have
Quotients averaging 105, which is above the nation's average. Also dark
skinned children from the South of the U.S. who moved to the Northern
have been found to exhibit higher intelligence quotient scores the
they stay in the more favorable environment.
History proves that progress is not necessarily connected with color
The medium dark skinned Babylonians and Egyptians had highly developed
societies when light skinned northern Europeans were still living in
Entire dark skinned nations using iron tools and woven cloth existed in
Africa when the Western Europeans still had to wear animal skins and
In the Middle Ages, when Europe was a maze of warring feudal states,
Polo visited China and found a vast civilization encompassing thousands
of miles and millions of people. For the past 200 years some of the
nations have enjoyed a superior technological and military position
most of the rest of the world. This, however, is rapidly ceasing to
The medium and dark skinned peoples of Africa and Asia are
their abilities to master modern technology, and even to contribute new
inventions as they did in the past. All mankind, regardless of color,
cooperating and contributing to progress and civilization.
Do Prejudice and Discrimination Stem From?
Various groups, tribes and societies in the past often came into
over limited food, water, land or other necessary resources. Lacking
modern techniques which enable us to provide plenty for all, they
fought with and enslaved one another. Prejudice developed as part of
cultural tradition involved in conflict and fear of other groups. Up
Columbus' voyage began to bring people together from far distant parts
of the world on a large scale, prejudice was confined to cultural
People who spoke different languages, had different religions, or lived
on different sides of a river or mountain were often prejudiced against
When dark, medium and light skinned people began to come into contact
the Western Hemisphere, Africa and the East Indies differences in
language, etc. began to be added to by differences in color. The
brought to the Western Hemisphere as slaves could soon learn the
and the cultural traits of their masters who were light skinned, but
couldn't change the darkness of their skins. Prejudice against the
became based upon their difference in skin color, and even today, more
than a century after slavery was eliminated, color prejudice still
Color discrimination is the act of denying rights to dark skinned
which are normally accorded to the lighter skinned ones. Slaves, of
were denied the rights enjoyed by free men, and many of those people
are prejudiced against the descendants of the former slaves try to
the discrimination practiced in the slavery era. In Africa and Asia,
settlers, aided by superior weapons, took over many nations and forced
the natives to work as slaves on what had been their own lands. Here
although times are changing, many of the descendants of the European
try to maintain the prejudice and discrimination inaugurated by their
Civic and Church Groups
Today modern science and invention give us the means to get along in
part of the world. Protected by air-conditioning, clothing and
large numbers of light skinned people live without great discomfort in
the blazing equatorial sun, while many dark skinned people living in
cloudy lands get enough Vitamin D
in their food and through vitamin pills. Except for a tiny
of hunting societies like the Australian Aborigines, color is no longer
needed as a means of survival.
Even though it isn't needed as it was in the past, color is now being
by millions of people as a standard for hating, fearing, oppressing and
exploiting other millions of people. Only by a careful study of what is
behind the color problem today and understanding why it is maintained
we hope to deal intelligently with it.
There Any Scientific Basis for Color Prejudice?
A scientific study of the facts reveals that the cells of the blood,
muscles and brain, as well as most of the body, are exactly the same in
all people, no matter what their color may be. There are short and
round and square, fat and slender people of all colors.
Physiologically, all people eat, breathe, sleep and have children in
same manner. There are strong and weak, alert and slow among "blacks,"
"browns," and "whites" as well. The world's running, swimming and
records are shared by men and women of all colors.
The discoveries and inventions which we enjoy were developed by people
from many lands and of many different colors. From a scientific point
view there is no basis for the idea that having light or dark skin
a person either mentally or physically superior.
Is Color Prejudice Maintained?
Prejudice, the act of judging people whom we don't know as being
or bad just because they have a different skin color, religion or
from our own, starts in the home. As young children we are taught many
things by our parents. While the child inherits its parents' genes, it
isn't born with their opinions. Our parents repeat things over and over
until we know them so well that we forget how we learned them, and
them to be "instinctive" or "common sense."
"Whites are better than blacks," "Don't play with niggers," and such
are learned in much the same manner as: "Don't cross the street on the
red light," or "Don't put your hand in the fire." Even if we are not
these things directly, children are easily impressed by the way parents
talk and behave. While some children rebel, on the average we come out
liking what our parents liked, and fearing what they fear.
In addition to what we are taught by others, our beliefs are based on
which we see for ourselves. It so happens that dark and medium skinned
people all over the world today are generally poorer, less educated and
more subject to disease than are people with light skins. Many people
this have come to the conclusion that a person's skin color can be used
as a sign of his inferiority or superiority.
What is overlooked, however, is that differences in education, income,
cultural advantages and other opportunities, rather than the amount of
melanin in the skin, determine whether or not a group is ignorant and
or intelligent and strong. A person who is half starved and who cannot
read or write is going to be physically and mentally weaker than one
enjoys the best food and education. If people are forced into the
of low paid laborers and denied the full rights of citizenship, they
certainly appear less capable, or"inferior." Their color, however, was
only used to identify them and deny them their rights, it wasn't the
that made them poor and uneducated. That was done by the way they were
Can Be Done To Eliminate Color Prejudice and Discrimination?
Prejudice, as we have seen, is not a universal instinct. Great
and religious leaders throughout the ages have proclaimed the
of all men. Many church bodies have done much to help people realize
color prejudice is unethical, and have encouraged education for
Federal and state laws have helped eliminate some of the discrimination
in employment, and since 1954 the Supreme Court has ruled that, under
Constitution, there can no longer be discrimination in education and
The Government, the Church and the Community can all help to eliminate
prejudice. Even more important, the people themselves can end
through understanding and sympathy; and through each of us doing the
thing by our fellow men and women in all our personal actions.
Henry's Backyard, by Ruth Benedict and
Weltfish, Henry Schulman, Inc., New York.
Is Race?, published by the United Nations
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, France.
Race Question in Modern Science, published
by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural