Kids today have an enviable range of choices when it comes to finding the perfect Black doll for them. Only recently was it nearly impossible to find a Black doll (let alone a multiracial doll) that actually reflected what Black people look like IRL. In fact, the Smithsonian reported that according to some super depressing studies from the 1940s, both Black and white children favored white dolls over Black dolls — and even viewed white dolls as more beautiful.
Luckily that all changed thanks to a woman named Sara Lee Creech back in 1951.
Creech recognized that something needed to be done about the dearth of realistic dolls for kids of color. So she decided to create Black baby dolls that truly represented Black girls. These dolls were in stark contrast with other dolls of the time — whitch were either stereotypical representations or simply darker versions of white dolls. Lee even called on anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston (yes, the acclaimed author of Their Eyes Were Watching God and Barracoon) to ensure she got it right. Hurston’s input led to the creation of the Sara Lee doll, one of the first realistic-looking Black dolls in the U.S. After they settled on a design, they still needed to determine the skin color for the doll. So Hurston and several other Black leaders (including sociologist Charles Johnson and baseball player Jackie Robinson) decided it would be best to market four different dolls — siblings — with varying facial features, hair and skin tones to display the diversity within the Black community.
Today, 70 years later, the diversity of dolls available to kids of color has expanded to include dolls that are Black, Brown, multiracial, and more. We’re finally seeing Black-owned toy brands popping up and creating dolls and more that represent the kids who’ll be playing with them.
For example, in 2017, Krystal Kay decided to create custom dolls for Black girls and women because most of the dolls she saw in stores didn’t reflect the full body types and natural hair textures of Black and multiracial girls and women.
“Black women are shapely; we’re curvy,” Kay tells SheKnows. “The overall reflection of us from top to bottom, our noses, our lips… Look at some of the historic Black dolls — they’re a mockery that over-exaggerates. We were mocked for years.” Kay’s dolls, on the other hand, reflect the expansive diversity of Black and biracial women — including dolls with albinism, vitiligo and disabilities. Her goal is to represent a new generation of doll makers who are committed to intersectionality: diversity within diversity.
Ahead, you’ll find our top picks for dolls that prove Black is beautiful — and that it comes in many forms.
Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale.
A version of this story was originally published in February 2019.
Bright-Eyed & Bright-Haired
The streak in Be Bright Savannah‘s hair turns pink in the sunlight. But even when the novelty of that wears off, little ones will probably be taking this perfectly sized (14″) friend with them wherever they go.
A Doll Who Is So Extra
One of Barbie’s newest lines is a group of dolls whose fashions are over-the-top in the best way possible. In addition to her enviable fashion sense, Barbie Extra #1 has articulated joints that make her so much more fun to play with.
American Girl Wellie Wishers Doll
This beauty proves Black girls are ready for adventure — with those Wellies, she’s set to go puddle-jumping, frog-catching and more. Her name is Kendall, and she has dark brown eyes and curly black hair in pigtails.
Mattel has gained praise in recent years for its ongoing efforts to promote inclusivity among its once-not-at-all-inclusive Barbie offerings. And this year, its Fashionistas line includes dolls with a wide variety of skin tones, hair textures, body shapes — and a beautiful Black doll with vitiligo, at an affordable price to boot! We can’t wait to see what the brand does next.
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures Nikki Doll
Another beautiful Barbie option, Nikki is a dream fit for a dreamhouse. We can’t get over her gorgeous hair, mod shift dress, and cool lace-up shoes.
Mixed Chicks Rock
Mixed Chicks’ line of multiracial dolls is here to remind everyone that mixed girls rock. Each of the four dolls comes dressed in pants, a jacket and a T-shirt with its signature message. Buy one, two or all four — they’re only $10!
When Ozi Okaro had difficulty finding dolls that mirrored her two daughters’ different skin tones, she created Ikuzi Dolls. The brand’s goal, she says, is to represent the “different shades of Black beauty” that girls of color can identity with. The brand even sells a line of mermaid dolls.
Lola Love Dolls
The U.K.-based Lola Love Dolls provides a diverse collection of Black dolls, including dolls in jihab and this beauty.
Cute Little Crumbsnatchers Handmades
Your little ones can play with their Cute Little Crumbsnatchers Handmades dolls in the rain, snow and sand. The dolls are made with acrylic and cotton yarns, stuffed with hypoallergenic Poly-Fil, armed with safety eyes and built to endure your child’s outdoor adventures and the washing machine and dryer.
Herstory Dolls mix play and creative storytelling. Each doll comes with a notepad and writing utensil for kids to create an original story about them.
TammyBCreations produces one-of-a-kind, 100-percent-handmade crochet dolls. These original dolls sport an assortment of hairstyles, from cornrows and Afro puffs to curly coils.
Mom Melissa Orijin started Orijin Bees after she noticed that her daughter’s preferences in dolls changed after she started attending school. Orijin created this line to help her daughter appreciate the beauty of her ethnic heritage. Dolls are eco-friendly and nontoxic.
Named after the Egyptian ankh, which means “life,” Biankha dolls encourage Black kids to love their natural selves. The brand’s mission is to empower “little princesses to become queens.”
Fancy Fancy Crochet
Fancy Fancy Crochet designs custom dolls with 15 skin tones. Tennis star Serena Williams served as the inspiration for this collector’s item.
And speaking of collector’s items… It’s hard to believe this doll isn’t a real baby. That’s because Baby Lola underwent the “reborning” process, where she was transformed from a vinyl doll into a lifelike one. She retails for a pretty penny ($2,500) from Sheva Dolls, a company that specializes in Black and biracial dolls.
Pin these beautiful Black and Biracial dolls
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