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American Girl introduces civil rights-era doll from Detroit

Get ready to meet Melody Ellison. She’s the newest doll American Girl introduced this week, and she’s coming with an important lesson about a brutal time in our nation’s past — the civil rights era.

A bit about Melody: She is 9, African-American and living Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s. She is said to love to sing and steps up to make her voice against inequality heard. Making her debut this summer, Melody will be the third African-American doll in the American Girl BeForever historical line, and the company said it went to great lengths to ensure her story is accurate.

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Welcome, Melody. She seems to be a good addition to the line of dolls, which includes other non-white dolls, such as Addy, a child slave. Their stories aren’t the light and fluffy stuff of most toys, but they are important. Our nation’s history is far from perfect, and these hard lessons about it must be taught. Starting in the playroom is a great way to not only teach the history but to present the diversity of the world from an early age.

Studies have shown how pretend play helps children learn, and including diversity in play begins to shape children to be more accepting adults. Racism and hate are not innate qualities but rather lessons learned, so we must teach the right lessons from an early age. We can’t undo history, but we can do everything we can to make a better future, beginning with our children.

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Of course, this one doll isn’t a panacea, and there is the issue of her $115 price tag. Others are still unhappy that there has never been an African-American Girl of the Year. So we’re not pretending Melody makes everything right. But she is a good addition to the line, and we hope to see many more diverse footsteps from many toy companies follow.

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