Photo by Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro youth, K’sheona Frazier (right), checks out a display of African-American dolls, with her three siblings, at the Clayton County Headquarters Library, on Wednesday.
A doll that depicts an African-American character is a rare find in the minds of some people.
Jonesboro resident, Tahirah Campbell, for example, said she could not find birthday decorations featuring the African-American “Bratz” character for one of her daughters a few years ago. She said even the character’s doll was not easy to find, while Caucasian characters from the doll series were easier to locate.
So, the mother of four was happy to see a display case filled with porcelain, African-American dolls, dressed in fashionable Victorian-style clothing, at the Clayton County Library System’s Headquarters branch, in Jonesboro, on Wednesday. They are done in the style of Madame Alexander dolls.
Campbell said she had seen other dolls done in that style before, but she had never seen one that depicted an African-American person. “You never get to see the African Americans dressed up in that attire — you always see the ones that are a little more ragged,” Campbell said. “So, it’s nice to be able to see them displayed and portrayed in such a light.”
The library is keeping the dolls –– which are on loan from Reference Assistant Jamila Haven –– on display through the end of March. The library is located at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro. The dolls are from a collection that Haven’s mother, Veronica, has been building for 15 years. Many of them are part of doll artist Seymour Mann’s “Connoisseur” doll collection.
“The unique thing about these dolls is that they are all African Americans,” said Sherry Turner, the managing librarian for the Headquarters branch. “They are especially rare in porcelains.”
Haven said many of the 70 dolls and figurines in her mother’s collection depict African Americans, and a few depict Asians. While the uniqueness of the dolls is not lost on the reference assistant, she said they do not come off as being rare in her mind.
“I grew up surrounded by African-American dolls, so I’m used to seeing them,” she said. “As a little girl, I would see them all the time, and I would play tea with them.”
Meanwhile, Campbell’s daughters, K’sheona and Kaylahn Frazier, 13 and 12 respectively, marveled at the dolls through the glass of the library’s display case.
They were particularly interested in the Victorian style of dress worn by the dolls. Each doll wore dresses made from satin and lace, and some wore hats, while others had ribbons in their hair.
Kaylahn Frazier noticed that each doll was wearing stockings, and remarked that it was something missing from newer dolls. “I like their outfits, and how they are wearing nice dresses and bows in their hair,” she said.
Her sister added: “Some of them were very colorful, and some of them were very unique.”