While the #1 Barbie celebrates her 50th anniversary, having been introduced to the doll market on March 9, 1959, the first Black doll to be given the name Barbie did not arrive on the doll scene until 1979 (box year) or 1980 (market year).
Black Barbie (headshot)--the first Black doll to be named Barbie.
Yes, collectors of Barbie dolls had to wait 20 years for the appearance of the afro-sporting; red, disco-style dress-wearing, afro pick-having doll that used the Steffie face mold... Black Barbie! Twenty years they waited and finally she arrived! Black Barbie is still one of the most popular Black dolls in the Barbie doll line. She still surfaces at doll shows and on online auction sites from time to time for varying prices. Most seasoned Barbie doll collectors own her while newbie Barbie doll collectors desire her.
Black Barbie in box (full-length)
Of course, the #1 doll has had Black friends and even controversial friends. Barbie's black... excuse me, "colored" friend entered the doll scene in the mid-1960s. Yes, her real name was "Colored Francie." Unfortunately, Francie experienced an early demise. After two releases (1967 and 1968), this dark-skinned beauty was pulled from the market amid complaints from several Barbie "purists" who emphatically opposed Mattel's inclusion of a Black doll in the Barbie line that could be considered a family member. White Francie was marketed as Barbie MODern cousin. While "Colored Francie" was not given that familial title, it could be assumed that she was also Barbie's cousin. This was the mid-1960s; the ink had not yet dried on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, poor "Colored Francie" was axed, expurgated, extracted, dismissed from the doll family/friend of Barbie. (The Update) Now, some have rewritten history to indicate that "Colored Francie" was discontinued because of poor sales or that the African American community did not appreciate that Francie was simply a brown version of the white doll. That's nonsensical. Black folks had been buying white dolls colored brown for their children for decades before and after "Colored Francie" was manufactured. Do you really believe the reason the doll was discontinued is because of poor sales from African Americans? No... this sounds like an attempt to rewrite doll history.
In 1968, Barbie's first Black friend, Christie, was introduced to the doll market followed by a few others: Cara, Curtis, Brad, and Black Ken, to name a few.
Above are some of Barbie's Black girlfriends.
Above are some of Barbie's Black boyfriends.
While America celebrates the original #1 Barbie's 50th anniversary, I am celebrating Black Barbie and other dark-skinned friends (then and now) of various ethnicities, but especially Black Barbie!
Happy anniversary Black Barbie... you are forever young, beautiful, dynamite (then), and sizzling hot (now)... my sistah!
Debbie Behan Garrett
Copyright 2009 - All rights reserved; updated 2022