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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Your Thoughts on the "American Girl" Slave Doll

A reader sent me this link for Addy, an American Girl doll. Addy is a slave and like all American Girl dolls she has a backstory. Addy also has her own line of stories and toys including this. The reader is upset about Addy, I'm torn on this one. Meet Addy's family. Meet Addy's friends.

They also have a Mexican American historical doll and a Native American historical doll

The Lucious Librarian wonders if she is just sensitive, or if the doll is racist. She and Jovan Miles have points about the unseemliness of accessorizing slavery

Jovan wants to stop production. I actually think it would be a great thing to teach children about slavery.

I used to imagine I was Harriet Tubman when I was little and I had a doll that looked like Addy, her name was Rachel and her plastic eyes kept falling off We didn’t’ have toy recalls back in the day. All we had was something called commonsense that said don’t swallow the eye. I also ripped a hole in Rachel's neck and stuffed all my birthday and Christmas money inside her and sewed her back up.

I admired Harriet Tubman and my Mama used to purchase these books called the Value Books and she was one of the biographies as well as Jackie Robinson. I always saw her as brave and adventurous and resourceful. Did I fully comprehend the horror of what she probably went through at 8 or 9? No, nor should I have. As I got older and continued to learn, I figured that out.

I've never been embarrassed or ashamed of my heritage as a descendant of slaves and all of the things that are part of our culture that are a result of the resourcefulness of our ancestors. So when I see something like Gone With the Wind, I see Mammy as being wise and industrious while the other characters act a plum natural fool.

This is part of American history and if you are going to place a doll several hundred years ago in this country chances were that if she was a young Black girl, she would have been a slave.

So Jovan, is there any way that the doll in your mind can be salvaged? Either by killing some of the accessories or altering the back story. I actually thought it was poignant that Addy had to leave her baby sister behind because her cries would give the family away and the fact that Addy's older siblings were sold down river and her family escapes to avoid the same fate and try to keep the family intact. I think it conveyed the fact that as a matter of course families were ripped to shreds during slavery and the decision to head North was a tough perilous one.

So is the option to have no African American historical dolls at all or try to salvage Addy in some way? I might add that the stories about the family and friends probably teach more Black history than a certain television network ever did.

When I first learned about Sojourner Truth, the story didn't include that she was the victim of violent sexual abuse at the hands of her masters, that didn't make her any less heroic in my young mind. I used to play with toy soldiers long before I knew the horrors of war.

I can see where Jovan and the Luscious Librarian are coming from though. I would interested in knowing what part of the country they both grew up in to see if the geographic differences might affect how we view Addy. If I had a daughter, I'd probably buy Addy. Just like My mama purchased all those stories about John Henry and Harriet Tubman.

Also, if y'all know of a Black-owned company that produces historical dolls with a back story, send me a link. I would be happy to post it. Part of what makes this unseemly is the idea that someone else is telling the story.

Weigh in Folks!

P.S. If I am offended by anything, its those dayum prices! WTH My doll Rachel probably cost $7. I can't buy a handkerchief for Addy for that much.