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New American Girl Doll Celebrates Black Joy During Harlem Renaissance | Smart News

Designer Samantha Black created three special edition outfits for Claudie.
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When bestselling author Brit Bennett posted a tweet Calling on American Girl, the beloved toy company known for its richly documented historical dolls, to debut a new black character, she didn’t expect her request — “please let it go.” write it to me” – gains a lot of ground.

But Bennett’s late-2020 tweet caught the attention of the American Girl team, sparking “many conversations internally and then with Brit,” as Jodi Goldberg, the company’s senior director of content development, recounts. . Weekly editorsIt’s Karen Raugust. Now, after two years of collaboration between Bennett, American Girl and a group of outside experts, the author’s impulsive proposal has resulted in the release of Claudie Wells, a black doll whose story is set in 1922, at the height of of the Harlem Renaissance.

“As a girl, I always enjoyed studying the Harlem Renaissance, an outpouring of black art that emerged alongside broader struggles for equal rights,” Bennett said in a statement. “I hope readers enjoy exploring this fascinating era through Claudie’s eyes.”

Claudie Wells in it "meeting held"

Claudie on her scooter

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Bennet wrote: Meet Claudie, an illustrated children’s book that introduces readers to the 9-year-old protagonist, her family, and the artists who live alongside them in a Harlem boarding house. As CBS News reports, Claudie, who finds herself surrounded by a host of talented musicians, painters and performers, embarks on a mission to discover “what she [has] offer.” Along the way, notes an American Girl blog post, she learns about the history of her community, from its roots in the Great Migration to its ongoing struggle for racial equality.

In addition to the doll and book, American Girl’s Claudie collection includes 1920s-inspired furniture, clothing and accessories, including a bakery owned by Claudie’s WWI veteran father, a stuffed dog named Dizzy Dot, a scooter and a Baby Ruth candy bar. Samantha Black, the fashion designer behind the Sammy B brand, created three special-edition outfits for Claudie that “present her modern take on 1920s glamour,” according to the statement.

“When I think of the Harlem Renaissance, I think of glamour,” says Black vogueby Laia Garcia-Furtado. “Whether people were poor or rich, they showed their creativity through their sense of style.”

Special edition outfits by Samantha Black

Claudie’s wardrobe includes three special edition creations from designer Samantha Black.

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Like other historical figures in American Girl, Claudie was developed in consultation with scholars, including historian Keisha N. Blain and Spencer R. Crew, director emeritus of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, who have advised the company on the best way to build the doll’s world. Doll designers were also inspired by 1920s publications, photographs, catalogs and magazines (including the The book of browniesa children’s periodical edited by WEB Du Bois).

Claudie is the fourth black doll in American Girl’s historic line. She was preceded by Addy Walker, a character who escaped slavery during the Civil War; 1850s New Orleans resident Cécile Rey whose collection was retired in 2014, just three years after it was released; and Melody Ellison, an aspiring singer growing up amid the turmoil of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Talk with Smithsonian magazine last year, Emilie Zaslow, author of Play with Americas Doll: A Cultural Analysis of the American Girl Collectiondetailed the rise of fandom for a character like Claudie.

American Girl's Lineup of Historical Figures

Claudie is American Girl’s fourth historical black doll. Melody Ellison (in a green checkered dress with a blue headband), Addy Walker (in a blue dress on the far right) and Cécile Rey (not pictured) preceded her.

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“Addy and Melody are both stories of racial struggle, tied to slavery on one side and the civil rights movement on the other,” Zaslow said. “There’s been a call for a story about a young African American girl that isn’t filled with struggle, like a Harlem Renaissance story that focuses on joy, art, and music. … [Currently, American Girl doesn’t] have a story that focuses on the African American experience as something just to be celebrated and not something to be seen as pain and strife.

American Girl lovers and casual fans famous Claudie’s outing on social media, alternately praising the doll as an example of why representation matters and drawing attention to fans who requested a character from Harlem Renaissance for years.

As Black tells it Daily Women’s Clothing‘s Rosemary Feitelberg, she relished the opportunity to “create something for little black girls,” who she hopes will see herself in Claudie.

“Growing up, I don’t know if so much love and attention was put into brown and black [dolls]”, Noir says. “Even I wanted the blonde doll because I felt the outfits and accessories were better. With Claudie, I feel like everything about her is special, even from her casual outfits to the outfits I’ve designed.

Claudie on the set of Angelo's Bakery

Claudie’s father, a veteran of the First World War, operates a bakery.

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Claudie’s launch comes at a time of renewed popularity for American Girl, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last year with the re-release of six historical figures, some of whom had previously been “archived” or discontinued. More recently, the brand’s dolls have become the unlikely stars of viral memes set in “historical dramas, many of which veer into the absurd,” writes Valeriya Safronova for the New York Times.

In memes, dolls dressed in period clothing stand in front of bespoke sets; text superimposed over images proclaims the need for an American Girl doll who has lived through situations ranging from the historically significant to the hilariously obscure: the sinking of the Titanicthe Great Molasses Flood of 1919, the execution of Tudor Queen Anne Boleyn.

“American Girl is in the midst of its own renaissance,” Goldberg said Weekly editors. “People went crazy about it. [The 35th anniversary revival] confirmed that there is a whole new audience of young women who like it in a very different way.