If you’re familiar with the American Girl franchise, then you certainly know “Addy Walker,” the single African-American character in the company’s Historic Collection, and a former slave. Albeit educational, Addy’s story — of escaping slav…
Now, before I start, I want to say that I love Cecile (why did you retire her, AG? WHY?!?!) I loved the doll and I loved the fact that there was another African American character, especially one who had extremely pretty clothes.
But apparently, some parents think Cecile is much more appropriate for 8 year olds than Addy because Addy was a slave, and we don’t want our kids learning about that do we? Oh no, children, all the black people in American history were happy and well fed and had beautiful clothes!
As an educator I hate this. Yes, I understand the need to protect your children. If the Addy books had contained rape, murder, or anything like that (which did happen), I would have been shocked and I would not see that as appropriate for kids.
However, Addy’s story gave a very good introduction to the subject. And in a world where a VA history textbook told elementary students that African Americans willingly fought on the side of the South in the Civil War in great numbers, I think we need a better way of educating students.
Once, a middle school textbook, discussed the Indian situation like this:
"The Native Americans were treated unkindly by the settlers."
Stop watering down history for children! Both of the stories-Cecile’s and Addy’s-are nessecary and both are appropriate. Leave my Addy alone (who, by the way, is much better than Cecile in character-just sayin’. Addy is also beautiful and I’m tired of hearing people say Cecile is much better looking-makes me want to scream. My Addy is lovely.). Yes, as a kid I was saddened by these stories (and I read them at age 5) but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have read them. I was a white kid who had no knowledge of it before and this made me more symapthetic to black people-which is fortunate, since many of extended family is racist and seems strangely proud of the fact that, in my well documented family history, we can list slave owners and KKK members. (We can also list rum runners during prohibition apparently, but I’m okay with that ;)) P.S. I’m not ashamed of my history-I can’t help what people in the past did, but I don’t act super happy when I relate the tales. I’m not saying Addy was wholly responsible for making me a tolerant human being but she did help, and I was so happy to have her as a doll. (I bought her with birthday money from a racist family member, because it gave me a sick pleasure-I knew they’d flip if they knew I had bought a black doll.)
Addy was also historical in another sense-she was one of the first black dolls that wasn’t just a skin color swap. Her face reflects black features, her hair is textured. It’s not like Barbie. And, in a world where black children, BLACK CHILDREN, consistently choose white dolls over black ones because they are “ugly” or “bad” she broke new ground. Addy was important for black children but she was also important for white children-she taught us something too. She made black children proud and white children reflective.
So yes, I cannot wait to get Cecile (I’m divided between her or Rebecca for the next doll). But my girl Addy will always have a place of honor as one of the first characters to teach me not to be racist. Thanks Addy-I’ll be reading your books to my own kids.
Basically, hiding the history of so many of our fallen Americans (the ones who didn’t escape slavery, for whom there is no marker) is, to me, completely dishonoring the people who did not make it.
And this is why representation matters. You get it but many do not and that is an issue that needs to be addressed. Slavery is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable it’s supposed to invoke empathy you are supposed to care about others smh.