Organized by The Wright Museum, I See Me: Reflections in Black Dolls is designed for family enjoyment and doll collectors’ amazement. The exhibition features an array of black dolls, dating from the late 19th century to the present, including babies, fashion dolls, hand-crafted, art dolls, and more. A play area, replete with a range of dolls mimicking the exhibition, provides hands-on fun and wonder for visitors. While the exhibition draws from the museum’s collections, it also presents a large selection of intriguing and historically significant dolls loaned by local and national doll collectors.
I See Me provides a rare opportunity for visitors to see the largest collection of Leo Moss dolls ever assembled. In Black Dolls: An Identification and Value Guide, 1820-1991, author Myla Perkins presents Moss’ incredible story as told by Ruby, his last surviving daughter. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Moss worked as a handyman for white families in Macon, Georgia. However, he had an extraordinary talent for creating dolls, both white and black. When commissioned by a child’s parents, he would create a doll with a striking resemblance to the child. If the child cried while he was sculpting the doll, Moss would mold tears onto the dolls face. In the early 1900s, tragedy struck Moss’ home. A traveling toy dealer out of New York, from whom he often purchased doll supplies, ran away with his wife and baby, leaving him to raise the other four children. Moss continued making dolls but never received the financial rewards that his talent merited. He died a pauper in 1936.
In addition, through educational and public programs, the museum will revisit the 1947 Kenneth and Mammie Clarke experiment, which involved black children being presented with two dolls, one black and one white, and then asked to choose the one they preferred. The results of the experiment showed that a majority of the children chose the white doll to be the prettiest and the nicest – based on color. Topics of discussion on this pervasive question about race and identity will range from where we are today, and what, if anything, should be done in the future?
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