Black Francie reproduction, 1997
As we have seen in the previous post, while a few attempts at more realistic black dolls were made well before the 1960s, they were no huge overall success. While there was a black version of most popular dolls, they were usually using the regular mold and just changed vinyl colors – like Mattel did with their black version of Barbie´s cousin Francie, issued in 1967, which was a black version of the regular Francie sculpt. It would take until the end of the decade before more black dolls with a dedicated, realistic sculpt came onto the market. “The first Black doll to be given the name Barbie did not arrive on the doll scene until 1979 (box year) or 1980 (market year).” Source
The Outdoor Girls series was published between 1913 and 1933 by the Stratemeyer syndicate (later responsible for Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys etc.). It was very one of the earliest and most popular girls´ adventure series.
Now that Melody Ellison has been officially released, a member of the AGC board recently asked what doll she – a girl in 1964, directly affected by the Civil Rights struggles of the time, conscious and proud of her black heritage – would have played with.
When I tried to answer, I ashamedly realized that while my previous entries in this series did take some black dolls into account, such as Addy´s Ida Bean and the rag dolls that inspired her, most dolls that I listed are indeed white. While this reflects the market to some degree (more on that in a second), there were more black dolls around than many people are aware of.
The history of black dolls deserves a closer look, and entries of its own.
<Warning: Since this particular entry looks at black dolls up to the mid-20th century, it also includes some that reflect 19th and early 20th century stereotypes that can be offensive to a modern reader. I decided to include them (as did the linked sources I used) because that was what was available at the time, and for a long time, it was all there was.>
- January 7 – the first black hole is discovered in a neighbouring galaxy. This is the first black hole confirmed outside the Milky Way.
- January 10 – Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States launch Fraggle Rock, a worldwide program advocating peace. The series is first shown on German TV in November as Die Fraggles.