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‘Black Dolls’ exhibit in upstate NY is an homage to our history

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Black Dolls, produced by the New-York Historical Society, is on view through Jan. 7 at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

The landmark exhibition explores handmade Black dolls through the lens of race, gender, and history. 

Black Dolls immerses guests 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.

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Black Dolls represent 90 years of production

“These dolls were made between the 1850s and the 1940s,” Allison Robinson, associate curator of exhibitions for the New-York Historical Society, told ABC News.

“It allows you to relate to people who really went through overt oppression and racism within their lifetime, from the height of American slavery to the early years of the American Civil Rights Movement. And how these dolls proved to be a way to counter that, and resist that.”

Black Dolls
Photo Courtesy: Black Dolls

The exhibition also examines how these toys serve as expressions of resilience and creativity, perseverance and pride, and love and longing.

The Strong National Museum of Play is the only museum that focuses on preserving the history of play and studying its importance, according to Steve Dubnik, president and CEO of the museum.

“Black history is our history, so having an exhibit that combined history of play for the Black population and for dolls was very important to us and gave us a unique opportunity,” Dubnik said.

The Black Dolls exhibit is on view at The Strong National Museum of Play until January 7, 2024.

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