In 1939 Drs. Kenneth B. Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark began a study about the self-image of black children in the United States. The study, known as the "Doll Test", showed children two dolls: one black and one white. Then, the children were asked to show the "good doll", the "bad doll" and the doll they wanted to play with. An overwhelming majority of children chose to play with the white doll and said the black doll was "bad" and the white doll was "good". The results of this study were part of the evidence shown in the case Brown v. Board of Education whose final decision ended racial segregation in US schools.
In 2006, Kiri Davis, a 17 year old African-American, repeated the experiment as part of a short-film project about the effect of Western standards of beauty in black teens.
The screen shows a table with two dolls on top, one white and the other black. They both have the same features and clothes. An African-American girl of about 5 is sitting at the table. We hear Kiri Davis' voice off-screen:
Can you show me the doll that you like best, or that you'd like to play with?. The girl shows the white doll.
And can you show me the doll that looks bad? The girl shows the black doll.
And can you give me the doll that looks like you? The girl hesitates and finally picks up the black doll.
I am not ashamed to say this made me cry. As mother to a beautiful girl with dark skin and extremely curly hair, I want my daughter to grow up with a positive self-image. I want her to know she is beautiful, smart and good. But, how do we fight against Barbie, Snow White and their cronies? How do we fight when all "black" dolls have blue eyes and straight hair?
I spent all of last December looking for a doll with dark skin and curly hair that was combable. Finally, at the beginning of January, I found one in a Christmas market. My daughter saw it and smiled.
Looks like me!, she said. I bought it, of course. Now it's named Pablo and lives in the bathtub.
You can see "A Girl Like Me", Kiri Davis' short film can be seen in this link.
To know more about the work of Drs. Kenneth B. Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark in the 1940's, go to this Web.
"Only Hearts©" is a collection of teen dolls that are fully bendable and dressed with sense. Brianna Joy is of mixed race. The dolls come with a dog and you can buy them a full soccer outfit or a horse to ride. See them in Only Hearts Club. I do not know if Brianna Joy's hair is combable.
"My Twinn©" makes personalized dolls that look just like your child. They cost about $135.
The "Strawberry Shortcake©" collection has several dark-skinned dolls: Orange Blossom (the only one that is truly black, with curly hair, although I do not know if it is combable), Ginger Snap and Coco Calypso. They also have an Asian doll, Tea Blossom.
You can see my daughter's doll here (click on the "Baby" tag, then on the "Baby culete" icon, Ref. 0554). This doll's curly short hair is combable. Ref. 0555 is the female version (click on the arrow in the bottom of the page). The male version is anatomically correct, hopefully the female version is too. The same firm has anatomically correct new borns of African, European and Asian ethnicities (click on the "Educativa" tag, then on the "Recien nacidos del mundo" icon). The African newborn dolls have no hair.