New American Girl Doll: Positive Change or More of the Same?

By Stephanie Gonzales Guittar, Lori Baker-Sperry and Liz Grauerholz

When we think of dolls, what usually comes to mind is the “classic” blonde, blue-eyed, well-accessorized dolls that occupies a central space in toy stores and in our cultural imaginations. It was this same iconic image that was firmly embedded in the minds of African American children in the 1940s when Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted their famous Doll Test and found that Black children preferred “white-skinned” dolls (and attributed more positive qualities to them) than “dark-skinned” dolls.

American Girl is making an effort to diversify their doll collection in their BeForever collection—a group of dolls, books and accessories that represent diverse historical periods and social backgrounds. These dolls and their stories are not just toys; they are intended to be educational (e.g., the National Museum of American History partnered with American Girl to help bring the stories to life).Black American Doll

In February of this year, American Girl unveiled Melody Ellison, a 9 year-old African-American girl living in Detroit during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. It’s about time. The BeForever collection consists of 20 dolls, 14 of whom are white. Melody is one of just three African-American dolls in the collection but only one of those (Addy Walker, a 9 year-old girl who escaped slavery) remains in circulation. Continue reading “New American Girl Doll: Positive Change or More of the Same?”