Since 1978, artists have created inspiring representations of black culture in doll form that are sorely lacking in the conventional toy industry
In the now infamous Doll Experiments, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark presented two dolls, one black and one white, to young black children and asked them questions about which they preferred. The test found that students who attended segregated schools overwhelmingly preferred the white doll and revealed how students internalized the racism that structured their everyday lives. The Clarks not only served as expert witnesses in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, their research findings also inspired what is now the longest-running black doll show in the United States. The Annual Black Doll Show, now in its 34th year, takes place at the William Grant Still Arts Center in the historically black Los Angeles neighborhood of West Adams. The show was founded in 1978, by the legendary L.A.-based artist and curator Cecil Fergerson, who served as the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts’ (LACMA) first black curator.
“Everybody calls him the godfather of the black community. The black artists know Cecil. He started as a janitor at [LACMA] and then he came on up to be a curator,” says Bobbie Campbell, one of the center’s founders.