Black Dolls explores handmade cloth dolls made primarily by African American women between 1850 and 1940 through the lens of race, gender, and history. The exhibition immerses visitors in the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making while examining the formation of racial stereotypes and confronting the persistence of racism in American history. It features more than 100 cloth dolls, alongside dozens of historical photographs of white and Black children posed with their playthings and caregivers. A coda explores 20th-century commercial dolls marketed to a broader audience of Black families seeking to instill pride in their children. Through these humble yet potent objects, Black Dolls reveals difficult truths about American history and invites visitors to engage in the urgent national conversation around the legacy of slavery and race.
Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, vice president and museum director, and Dominique Jean-Louis, associate curator