Meet American Girl’s newest doll, a young black girl from the Civil Rights Era
Melody Ellison is the company’s latest African-American doll just in time for Black History Month.
To commemorate Black History Month, US doll company American Girl just announced its latest historical doll, Melody Ellison, an African-American girl living in Detroit during the 1960’s civil rights movement.
The new doll will be available for purchase this summer, during American Girl’s 30th anniversary.
According to the American Girl website, Melody is meant to represent the ordinary Americans who helped power the civil rights movement:
Why is a doll so important?
American Girl dolls are not like your average Barbie doll. Back in the day, when Barbie dolls all looked the same (before this), American Girl dolls offered much needed diversity.
The 18-inch dolls are fully-fledged, unique characters that portray realistic girls of different ethnicities. Each doll has an accompanying book written from the girl’s perspective and contains serious stories about American history and hardship.
Through their backstories, American Girl characters can make unsavory aspects of history that aren’t easy to talk about - like war, slavery, poverty, and child labor - digestible and emotionally resonant to young girls.
A few examples include:
A Native American doll named Kaya, from the year 1764, dreams of becoming leader of her Nez Perce tribe in Northwest America and deals with the beginning of European contact.
Latina doll Josefina Montoya, from colonial New Mexico, lives through the societal and cultural changes in 1824 right before the Mexican-American War, all while grappling with her mother’s death.
And doll Kit Kittredge, who lives through the Great Depression, finds ways to help her family out of poverty after her father loses his job.
Since the company was bought by Mattel (the makers of Barbie dolls) 15 years ago, American Girl has been sadly moving away from creating more “radical girl” dolls. That’s why Melody, a Civil Rights Era doll, is a much welcomed addition.
Melody is one of two African-American dolls currently featured in the line. The first black doll was Addy, a girl from the Civil War-era who escaped slavery.
The reaction to new addition Melody has been mostly positive.
Can't wait for the Black Lives Matter doll in 60 years https://t.co/xePnjgv5Nm— No Quarter Given (@chaedria) February 22, 2016
But the steep price has caused some criticism.
Too bad the new black American Girl doll is going to cost $119.— Reesa (@QueenReesa) February 22, 2016
Making dolls that accurately and respectfully portray people of color is no easy task.
American Girl created an advisory board, including the late civil rights activist Julian Bond, to help create Melody.
It’s always good to have more dolls and characters that represent all sorts of people that young girls can identify with.
In today’s globalized world, dolls like Melody are needed to introduce the challenges groups of people have faced throughout history to a young audience.
And most importantly, by offering more empowering female role models, these dolls can teach important lessons about the agency and power that girls, no matter when and where they come from, have in creating change in their communities.
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