Now there’s Melody, the new American Girl doll just released last week. She hails by way of Detroit, Michigan. This is a monumental decision (and belated, I’ll add) to finally have a black doll from Detroit–as it speaks to the bigger issues of civil rights, racial tension and inequality happening now and in the past.
So, what’s the doll’s official story? Melody Ellison follows is a 9-year-old growing up in Detroit during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and how speaks up for social change. Choosing Detroit was clearly intentional, as it illustrates African-Americans faced inequality and discrimination everywhere in the U.S., not just the South.
It’s important to remember that the city was an integral part of the civil rights movement in the ’60s, notably including the 1963 Walk to Freedom where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the first iteration of his “I Had A Dream” speech, for instance.
Julie Parks, American Girl company spokesperson, told Babble why the company decided to create Melody:
“We always focus on pivotal periods in history that had a significant impact on our country’s development, Our goal with these characters is always to help bridge the past and the present for girls today and show them those common threads that bring girls of all times together.
The 1960s was a hugely influential era. At the time, in the early ’60s, the civil rights movement was in full swing. It was not only a key movement in our country’s history, but it’s still a revenant and powerful force in American society and culture today. We’re most proud of how Melody can really show girls through these stories how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to make a positive difference.”
Creating Melody wasn’t easy either–there was a lot of time and attention put into making sure that the doll’s story was accurate. For instance, the late Horace Julian Bond, chairman emeritus of the NAACP Board of Directors and founding member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was on the six-member advisory board regarding the doll’s creation.
All of their hard work paid off as, moms of black daughters are pretty excited they can get a doll that their daughters can identity with. One mom, Trina Small of Baby Shopaholic, has stated that Melody is “well thought out”:
“When my daughter first laid eyes on her she said, ‘She’s so cute! Look at her hair!’ First thing I noticed was the style of her hair and the details in her dress. Melody is a perfect reflection of black girls during this special moment in time. Pictures of my mother in the ’60s look just like Melody. I appreciate American Girl for delicately handling Melody’s story and details. This beautiful doll is right on time.”
What an exciting time.