Friday, May 25, 2018

From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls

My Chatty Cathy Family:  Chatty Cathy (Ashton Drake), Tiny Chatty Baby, Tiny Chatty Brother, Tiny Chatty Baby, 1960s Chatty Cathy, 1960s formerly white-now-dyed-brown Chatty Cathy
In January of this year, the registrar of the Field House Museum in St. Louis, Missouri requested use of a high-resolution photograph of my original 1960s Black Chatty Cathy (the second doll from the right in the above photograph). Their desire was to include the photo on an informational wall panel in an exhibit on African American dolls they were planning. I photographed and submitted photos of my doll to the museum and recently received the following images of the second exhibit room where the Chatty Cathy photo hangs. With permission of Christina Latzer, Registrar, Field House Museum, those images (along with cropped close-ups I created) are shared below:

Close-up of the dolls in the photograph immediately above this one

Another angle of the dolls in the photo immediately above this one

The photograph of my Chatty Cathy is shown above along with descriptive text and courtesy credit.

Courtesy credit extended to me by Field House Museum for use of my photo.

Ms. Latzer wrote:
The title of the exhibit is "From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls", and the photos I sent you are just of the second room (it is on display in the third floor of our historic house), where the transitional and celebratory aspects of the exhibit are displayed. The first room represents the earlier period, with a few traditional dolls from Africa, and a number of caricatures and stereotypes, primarily Topsy-types and mammies. 

The exhibit, which extends through July 15, 2018, is described as follows:


Toys are constant companions throughout childhood and beyond. Today’s children can find themselves represented in their toys, but this hasn’t always been the case. From Caricature to Celebration: A Brief History of African-American Dolls takes you on a tour of dolls spanning more than 100 years. With more than 80 dolls on display, you will take a journey from the earliest days of traditional African dolls and racial stereotypes through the years of assimilation and early acceptance.
The exhibit page of the museum's website ( contains additional information.  If you are in the St. Louis, Missouri area, do plan a visit.

Field House Museum
634 South Broadway
St. Louis, MO 63102

For hours of operation, directions, and admission, navigate here.


Historical Fact About the Field House Museum:  The Eugene Field House is a historic house museum at 634 South Broadway in St. Louis, Missouri. Built in 1845, it was the home of Roswell Field, an attorney for Dred Scott in the landmark Dred Scott v. Sandford court case.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

South Carolina Doll Exhibit May 23rd through 26th

"Some of Mattie P. Sanders' 2000 dolls belong to the health category.  Often these are dolls with damage Sanders could not repair."

The above image, caption, and article that follows are from a May 19, 2018, article by Adam Parker, published online at the Post and Courier website.

Black doll collection (and more) soon on display at Maritime Center
By Adam Parker  May 19, 2018 

More than 2,000 dolls will fill two levels at the Charleston Maritime Center for a four-day expo organized by the nonprofit B.R.I.G.H.T. Historical Organization. The expo, called “Black Footprints: Blacks Past and Present,” is meant to provide positive role models and build self-esteem among visitors young and old.

The collection of dolls will be arranged in ways that mimic human experiences. Collector Mattie P. Sanders, a 74-year-old West Ashley resident, is the force behind the event. Her colleague, Dorothy Jenkins, president of B.R.I.G.H.T. and member of Emanuel AME Church, arranged for the church to provide funding. The project fits well with Mother Emanuel’s youth outreach efforts, Jenkins said.

She hopes the exhibit will draw parents and children and spark conversations about race, family, character and more.

“We want to promote positive values, character-building activities, so that parents will have that opportunity to have that discussion,” Jenkins said.

Sanders retired as a guidance director at Berkeley Middle School in Moncks Corner in 2007. She always has been a visual person interested in affirming the black experience, she said. About 35 years ago she started collecting African-American dolls.

Once she achieved a critical mass, she organized them according to themes: sports, family, holidays, life roles, emotions, etc. And in 1997 she started her nonprofit, B.R.I.G.H.T. Historical Organization. The acronym stands for “Blacks Righting Injustices and Gaining High Triumphs.”

Eventually, she expanded her collection to include dolls from all over the world. Often, she found one in disrepair and went to work fixing it. Dolls she couldn’t fix (because a part was broken or missing), she assigned to the “health section” of her collection.

“I don’t throw away any dolls,” Sanders said. “I am going to do something with them.”

Only once before, at Berkeley Middle School, has she exhibited her entire collection, but she will take small portions of it to schools, community groups and churches to help illustrate a certain theme, she said.

Building the collection has been a labor of love, though Sanders has encountered bumps in the road.

It has been a challenge finding black dolls, she said. “They are not easily visible, you have to look in the back.”

At the Maritime Center, 10 Wharfside St., near the South Carolina Aquarium, the black dolls mostly will be located on the lower level, organized according to theme. Upstairs, patrons will find “The Great Big Melting Pot,” an international mix of dolls from Sanders’ collection.

The show will be open to the public 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, through Saturday, May 26. Admission is $5 for those 11 and up; $1 for children 10 and under.

For more information, go to

Read the original article here.



Monday, May 21, 2018

Katherine Johnson Barbie

A lovely image of NASA Mathematician and Physicist, Katherine Johnson appears on the back of the Katherine Johnson Barbie's box.
Part of the Barbie Inspiring Women series, the Katherine Johnson Barbie ordered from Barbie.Mattel dot com has yet to arrive, but the one ordered later at a reduced price from Amazon arrived last week. In spite of the reused head sculpt that originated with Byron Lars' Mbili that has been used for multiple others, including the So In Style doll line, the 1950s-inspired hairdo and the cat-eye eyeglasses add to the Katherine Johnson Barbie's authentic look. The complexion is appropriate as well.  The Barbie.Mattel website indicates the doll was designed by Kelley Lindberg and that the face sculpt is the Model of the Moment Nichelle sculpt.  The latter is incorrect.  As I have indicated, the doll definitely uses the Mbili sculpt.

My doll's shipping box appeared tampered with.

The shipping tape on both the top and bottom of my doll's shipping box had been slit as though someone had attempted to open it.  Before opening the box myself, I heard something rattling around inside.  After opening, I discovered what has become the norm for Amazon:  no protective packing materials were added to the box; the boxed doll was inside the otherwise empty shipping box!  Someone really needs to school those people in proper packing procedures.

The rattling I heard was the doll's eyeglasses.  They had fallen to the bottom of the box.  Initially, I had not planned to open the doll's box, but I had to get the glasses.  I made a slit in the tape that held the plastic tab in place on the top of the box, opened the plastic flap, turned the box upside down, and the glasses slid into my hand.

Katherine Johnson Barbie was photographed before retrieving her eyeglasses.  The backdrop of the box is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lab setting in which several white males are seated at desks.
Before retrieving the eyeglasses, I took the above and next few photos of the doll's box.

Side panel
The side panels are identical with a purple and lavender design and Ms. Johnson's signature inside a gold circle.

The back panel of the box
The back panel of the box features a photo of Ms. Johson above her signature and NASA title.  Indicating she is still alive, her year of birth (1918) - present are below her title.  A quote from Ms. Johnson reads:

"I asked questions; I wanted to know why."  

A description of the Inspiring Women series and a brief bio of Ms. Johnson follows the above quote and is shown below in this enlarged image of that portion of the back of the box.

With her glasses on, she looks more like the remarkable woman she represents.
Katherine Johnson Barbie has black rooted hair with flipped ends.  The production doll's hair is longer and styled a little different than the prototype's.  Her eyes are light brown.  She is dressed in a short-sleeve pink dress that has a pleated skirt, a white collar, white three-button placket, and black ribbon belt.  She wears pearl stud earrings and a two-string pearl necklace.

A spacecraft decal is on the lapel of one collar of the doll's dress and she wears a photo ID necklace. 
A pair of black ankle-strap high-heel shoes completes the Katherine Johnson Barbie's fashion.
As the final paragraph of the back-of-box text indicates, Katherine Johnson Barbie Doll celebrates the achievements of a pioneer who broke through barriers of race and gender.  Like the trajectories she calculated, her contributions inspire young people to excel in math and science and to reach for the stars.

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