The History and Significance of Black Dolls

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You may have heard of the doll test, during which black children, given the choice between a black doll and an otherwise identical white doll, often identified the white one as prettier and nicer.

If so, you probably understand what a difference it makes to black kids to see representations of people who look like them (as we were reminded recently during certain Oscars scandals).

What you may not know is that black dolls have a rich and complex history, from secret dolls made by enslaved people to racist caricatures to black Barbies. Collectors Weekly reviews this history in fascinating detail in an article about Why Do You Have Black Dolls?, a new documentary by Samantha Knowles.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →