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The First Black Doll

February 10, 2019

On this day that the Lord has made I'd like to shed some light on Sara Lee Creech! In 1951, Saralee created the Sara Lee Negro doll, its humble beginnings started in Belle Glade, Florida, and manufactured by Ideal Toy Corporation.

 


Although brown dolls did exist they were not true representations of black and brown people. Often times the skin was painted black (or very dark brown), the lips and noses were overly exaggerated in design. The lips were painted bright red, even the eyes were enlarged and bulging. The Sara Lee doll was the first doll of its kind. Special attention was paid to the features and skin tone because Sara Lee believed "representation truly mattered" and get this, she wasn't black. Sara Lee was in fact caucasian. 

 

Eleanor Roosevelt fell in love with the project. To attract national attention, Roosevelt hosted a meeting to consult on the appropriate skin and features for Saralee, with black celebrities such as Mary Bethune Cookman, Jackie Robinson, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche. In response, Ideal quickly created Sara Lee for Christmas. The doll was made of vinyl with medium-brown skin tone, on photos she is often seen wearing a yellow organza dress and matching bonnet. 

 

 

 

Creech has also been noted to commission Zora Neale Hurston for advise.
Saralee quickly became the buzz in many publications. She appeared in Sears Roebuck stores in 1951 and the Christmas catalog, for only $6.95. Ebony, Time, Life, Esquire, and Newsweek magazines advertised her arrival. 

 

Unfortunately as quickly as the dolls were manufactured they pulled the plug and stopped manufacturing Sara Lee in 1953.

 

 

 

THIS LAST PHOTO IS MY MOTHER, BROTHER, GREAT GRANDMOTHER AND ME SMILING BRIGHT, HOLDING A DOLL SHE CREATED FOR ME.

To see more beautiful brown dolls created with yarn in all shades of brown visit me on

Facebook or Instagram  

 


Photo credits:
Jet magazine archives
Life magazine archives
Book: Zoral Neale Husrton Final Decade
Black doll collecting blog spot 

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