Doll making has been around since the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. The first usage of dolls as toys has been documented in Greece around 100 AD. The most well-known doll makers and designers in the U.S. include Mattel, Hasbro, and others. But there also many African and African American entrepreneurs that are in the business! Here are 7 of the top Black-owned doll makers and designers:
#1 – Trinity Designs: This Texas-based doll maker began making African American dolls in 2001. Their product line includes dolls that capture the image and character of the African American sorority sister, as well as adult, collectible dolls, which can be purchased online.
#2 – Uzuri Kid Kiz: This doll maker is based in Columbus, Ohio, and has been making dolls that reflect the African American culture since 1997. The word “uzuri” means beauty and expresses the company’s belief that all kids are beautiful, no matter what color or race they are.
#3 – Queens of Africa Dolls: This Nigerian-based company makes dolls (pictured above) and doll accessories that promote the African heritage. Their dolls have both natural and braided hair and are dressed in clothing made from African colors and prints. The dolls are available worldwide, but are especially popular in Nigeria, where they are said to be easily outselling Barbie® dolls.
#4 – Tonner-One World Dolls: This company’s slogan is “We are pretty girls, and we rule the world.” Founders Trent T. Daniel and Stacey McBride-Irby (who former designed Barbie® dolls for Mattel) created a multi-cultural line of girl dolls in 2010 to fill a gap in diverse representation in the doll industry. They are based in Houston, Texas.
#5 – Double Dutch Dolls: Double Dutch Dolls designs and produces a line of multi-cultural dolls, books, and accessories for girls ages 8 and up. The dolls are African-American, Hispanic, Biracial and Multiracial. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Marietta, Georgia.
#6 – Positively Perfect Dolls: The company was founded in 2010 by a mom and former professor as a way to encourage young girls. The dolls, which are available in local Target and Walmart stores, are designed to “encourage dreams, promote intelligence, challenge perceptions, and open hearts to all types of beauty.”
#7 – EthiDolls: This company makes authentic, collectible African-American signature dolls and accessories that embrace African heritage, culture, and history. The company was founded in 2003 by two women Ethiopian entrepreneurs from the New York City area. Their goal was to develop a line of culturally authentic and unique Signature Dolls and Accessories that teach history and celebrate cultural diversity.
Black doll enthusiasts are also encouraged to visit The National Black Doll Museum in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The museum was founded in 2012 and is the first museum in New England and the second museum in the nation dedicated to preserving the history of black dolls. For more information, visit www.nbdmhc.org