American Girl To Debut New Doll From Civil Rights Era

Since American Girl debuted their very first catalog in 1986, the company has been putting smiles on millions of little girls’ faces each year. In total, the company has sold 29 million dolls and more than 153 million books to girls of all ages.

Now, to celebrate their 30th anniversary, American Girl is debuting a brand new historical doll named Melody Ellison. According to CBS News, Melody is a nine-year-old who is growing up in Detroit civil rights era. Melody is just your every day girl who loves singing and hopes to use her music as a way to make a difference in the world.

Melody will be featured in the American Girl BeForever line, which currently includes eight historical characters: Kaya, an adventurous Nez Perce girl; Josefina, a young girl from New Mexico; Addy, a brave girl who escapes slavery in 1864; Samantha, a kindhearted girl growing up in 1904; Rebecca, who is growing up in 1914 New York City; Kit from 1934; Maryellen from 1954; and Julie, who is growing up in San Francisco in 1974.

Each of the BeForever dolls stand 18 inches tall, and are perfectly crafted to reflect their era. “Accurate clothing, furniture, and accessories evoking her world and adventures” can also be purchased, along with books that feature a modern girl who travels back in time to meet the BeForever characters.

“Each character’s classic story is told in an engaging two-volume series that brings her era to life for young readers and focuses on such universal themes as family, school, cultural celebrations, and the inevitable changes and challenges every girl faces as she grows up. From a daring Native American girl living in the Northwest in 1764 to an optimistic girl growing up in San Francisco in the mid-1970s, the BeForever characters illustrate lasting lessons of hope and determination, and the enduring power of being true to yourself.”

Although the BeForever collection features characters from all walks of life, American Girl was criticized in 2014 for discontinuing four characters because two were minorities, African American Cecile Rey and Chinese-American Ivy Ling. Over the past 30 years, American Girl has debuted more than 20 original dolls, but only three of them have been African American.

“When we launched Addy, the universal feeling was that we needed to address the very difficult topic of slavery before we addressed any other experience in black history,” Julia Prohaska, vice president of marketing, said.

Melody will be the first American Girl doll from the civil rights era. When asked why the company waited until 2016 to release the doll, Prohaska said, “We do approach every character very thoughtfully so this isn’t something we rush into. We’re not looking to address critical demand — we’re looking to tell stories in the most authentic and genuine way that we possibly can.”

Mark Speltz is the senior historian who helped the company develop Melody’s story. Along with Speltz, the company crafted a six-panel advisory board made up of historians and educators.

“When we learn about the civil rights movement, we learn about a handful of really important people. But the movement was… driven by average, ordinary Americans, like Melody,” Speltz explained.

Melody will be available for purchase for the first time later this summer. The doll will cost $115, and accessories including a bed and recording studio will also be available to purchase separately.

[Photo by tishomir / Shutterstock]