The Short of it:
American Girl just introduced a new historical doll to their line this week, a 9-year-old Black girl from Detroit named Melody Ellison with big dreams during the civil rights era. It's a huge and timely addition to the company's lineup which has been often been criticized for it's lack of racial and ethnic diversity in its characters. Also, there's the fact that Black character is being launched during a time of huge racial unrest in the country.
The Longer Version of It:
American Girl's latest historical BeForever doll is a black girl from Detroit who has aspirations to be a singer during the boom of 1960s Motown music and the civil rights movement. Fans are praising the company for it's new addition and her ability to give young girls perspective on a time that was widely historically changing for the country.
Here's why people are freaking out:
The BeForever line of American Girls ties in historical characters who could be friends of their younger target audience and while it has worked to be an educational avenue for young girls, the company has faced quite a bit of criticism from fans and patrons alike for it's pretty diversity-stark lineup. Of the fourteen dolls in the line only two black girls had been featured. One, Cécile Rey, who lived in 19th-century New Orleans, was discontinued after just three years on the shelf in 2014. The line also nixed its only Asian doll during this time.
According to Mic the company looked to civil rights activist Julian Bond, who passed away last August, to "review and provide input on all aspects of Melody's development." The president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Juanita Moore was another one of the consolidators in the doll's design and inception and told The Detroit Free Press that the storyline of the new American Girl doll reveals that discrimination wasn't just a southern struggle throughout the 1960s.
"The truth about the civil rights movement is that all of those individuals, they were not rich, they were not powerful, but they created change that changed the way every single person in this country lives today, and impacted human rights movements worldwide," Moore told the newspaper.
American Girl donated $100,000 dollars worth of the paperback stories of Melody entitled No Ordinary Sound and Never Stop Singing to 22 public libraries in Detroit. Both Melody and her book are available for purchase at American Girl's website.
There's no coincidence in the race and storyline of this new American Girl. Melody's release comes during a time of the Black Lives Matter movement and huge racial unrest in the country. American Girl is noted for marketing characters that can be relatable to their young target. Melody's story works as a tool in helping you girls to understand what the civil rights movement mean to other girls during that era while also being relatable to the movements of today and building an understand that there is still quite a bit of work to be done. We say: Hurrah for Melody!