By Winnie Gaturu
would you do if you had a collection of more than 5,000 dolls? Open a museum,
maybe? Well, that’s exactly what sisters Felicia Walker, Celeste Cotton and
Debra Britt did with the black dolls they’d been collecting for more than 50
years. They would carry the dolls and take them to different venues to educate
people about black history and culture, but eventually grew tired of packing and
unpacking their huge collection, plus, they were running out of space so they
decided to get them a proper home. This wasn’t easy. It took 5 years to
find a good location, a 3,500 square feet property in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
And that’s how the National Black Doll
Museum, the largest in the world, came to be.
really inspired them to collect all these dolls? It’s more of a passion they
have. They all love collecting dolls and have been doing it since they were
young. Their grandmother collected black dolls too, and when they were kids,
their uncle, who was in Vietnam, would send them a doll from every country he
visited. As they grew older, their love and interest in collecting dolls
increased and thus their huge collection that they are now sharing with the
museum has many different exhibits which showcase different aspects of African-American
history. You’ll find a dimly lit room representing a slave ship with more than
700 wrap dolls which represent those who survived the voyage and even a star
room containing dolls of famous black actors like Wesley Snipes and Will Smith.
The doll collection also contains a few unique pieces like a Marley doll which
is made out of Bob Marley’s real hair and clothes, and the first black barbie
from as early as 1979. There are also dolls of black people who made
extraordinary achievements like Martin Luther King Junior and dolls of ordinary
people whose contributions have been undervalued. Each doll in the museum is unique in its own
way and tells a story. It could be a joyful one, a sad one, a witty one or a
historically rich one. The bottom line is, every piece in the museum showcases the
richness of African-American culture.
sisters, the dolls remind them of the past, both good and bad. They are a great
way to teach people, especially children, about African-American culture and
the people who shaped our present. As part of their initiative, the three
sisters also take part in a bullying prevention program where they travel
across the country teaching children how to make wrap dolls. They encourage the
kids to put their fears and worries as well as their hopes and dreams into the
dolls they make. By using scraps of fabric, yarn and other recycled materials,
the kids are taught that they can make something out of nothing and hence
motivate them to create the best out of themselves.
ever find yourself in the Mansfield, Massachusetts area, be sure to visit the
National black doll museum. You’ll definitely get to learn a lot about African-American
culture and maybe even make a wrap doll yourself!
Do you collect black dolls? Would you visit this museum?
Nairobi, Kenya. During her free time, she loves trying out new recipes,
diy projects, filling in crossword puzzles and spending time with her
family. You can catch up with her on yourhairandbeautywrite.wordpress.com.