Monday, February 22, 2010

Moments in Black Doll History - Garvey's UNIA Doll Factory


Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in St Ann's Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887, and died in London, England on June 10, 1940. In 1914, Garvey organized the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Kingston, Jamaica. His efforts were to uplift the condition of black people worldwide. Garvey promoted pride in the black race and economic empowerment. 

In 1919 the Negro Factories Corporation, a branch of the UNIA, generated income and provided jobs for blacks with its numerous enterprises.  These included a chain of grocery stores and restaurants, steam laundry, tailor shop, dress making shop, millinery store, publishing house, and a doll factory

...Mothers! [Garvey is quoted as urging] Give your children dolls that look like them to play with and cuddle.
Yes, Marcus Garvey, well known as a Black Nationalist and orchestrator of a "Back to Africa" movement in the United States during the early 1900s, made black dolls for black children. 

Where are Boyd's and Garvey's dolls today?  A curious collector wants to know.

ADDENDUM - February 7, 2015
After publishing this post some five years ago, I found a weblog dedicated to Henrietta Vinton Davis (August 15, 1860 – November 23, 1941), a woman who worked closely with Marcus Garvey in organizing and promoting the efforts of UNIA.  The weblog on Davis indicates during an address by Marcus Garvey at the Palace Casino in New York on June 15, 1919, Davis recited the poem, "Little Brown Baby" by Paul Laurence Dunbar.  During the recitation, she used a large black doll on loan from Berry & Ross, Inc.  The doll used might have been similar to the one held by the little girl in this image.  Davis's speech ended with an appeal to the audience to support the factory in its efforts to promote a spirit of pride in black people. 


In addition to her work with the UNIA, Davis was an actor, elocutionist, dramatic reader, playwright, and vice president of UNIA's Black Star Line Steamship Corporation.

The weblog source of the image links and information about Davis can be read in its entirety here.




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