A Class Divided is a film based around an experiment conducted by a third-grade schoolteacher named Jane Elliott in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination. Elliott divided her class into blue-eyed students and brown-eyed students, telling them that the blue-eyed students were superior. Although there was very little time to inculcate and reinforce these beliefs, Elliott reported that her students changed their attitudes and conduct based on which group they were in. The same held true when she reversed the roles on the following day, treating the brown-eyed students as better. Subsequent variations of the experiment also showed that academic performance improved in the group designated as superior, and deteriorated in the other group.
The relationship between the blue-eyed and brown-eyed children parallels the relations between white people and Black people, or other ethnic minorities in wider society. Elliott herself was surprised at how quickly different cultural identities could be established based on arbitrary factors which the children had not noticed before. As she refined the experiment (which she conducted many times over decades, with both children and adults, and had been conducting for almost twenty years when the film was broadcast), Elliott attempted to isolate and distil the messages of white supremacy. She then used the essence of these messages in formulating the stereotypes she established about the intelligence, honesty, and general habits of blue-eyed or brown-eyed people for the purposes of the experiment.