History has a song and sometimes it takes awhile for us to recognize its Melody.
I’ve mentioned before that my mother integrated a school, and how I had the opportunity to visit the land that my ancestors worked as slaves, but those stories (and many others like them) can be difficult at times to convey to kids. Sometimes that history becomes unwieldy or difficult because it is so personal. Nonetheless they are crucial stories for us to learn, know, and pass on to the next generation. Sometimes that is done through personal stories, and sometimes that is done through fictional characters who portray the very times we are describing.
American Girl recently introduced a new character in its BeForever line – Melody. What is unique about Melody Ellison is that American Girl worked hard to develop not only a authentic story, but to also make it one that was historically accurate. In fact, her development (from the doll to the books to the outfits to the accessories to the story setting) was two years in the making and was assisted by an advisory board of the following members:
” The late Horace Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP Board of Directors and founding member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
” Gloria House, director and professor emerita, African and African American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn
” Juanita Moore , President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and founding executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis
” Rebecca de Schweinitz, associate professor of history, Brigham Young University, Utah, and author of If We Could Change the World: Young People and America’s Long Struggle for Racial Equality
” Thomas J. Sugrue, professor of history at New York University and author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North
” JoAnn Watson, native of Detroit, ordained minister, and former executive director of the Detroit NAACP
So why does this matter?
I’m not going to tell you that you need to purchase a doll to tell a story. Instead, what I will share is that I remember my mom telling me stories of what her experience was like. Part of that experience was a difficulty in finding dolls that looked like her. Representation, even in the toy industry, does matter. I personally appreciate that there is more to Melody than her looks – she has a story. She has a history. Melody’s backstory is the 1960’s – the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. Melody uses song as a way to voice her support for the movement – specifically the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. This song is no throwaway, historically it is known as the Black National Anthem. Melody Ellison’s story can now also be seen in live action through an Amazon video starring Marsai Martin (who stars in the tv series Blackish).
Again, I’m not going to tell you that you need to buy a doll to learn about history. Instead, I am going to acknowledge that I think it is pretty cool that a company would invest the time, resources, and connect with prominent members of a community in order to tell a story about our history. It is an effort to not only share history, but to share the strength of a time about which our children need to know.
Another thing that I enjoy about the Melody Ellison campaign is that it not only shares history, but it also seeks to inspire children to find their voice. Through the #LiftYourVoice campaign, children are encouraged to share ways in which they bring harmony to the world.
Thanks to American Girl, I was able to share Melody and her story with my daughter. It is, and will be, a deep (and sometimes difficult) discussion of history that is attached to this gift, but it is also an opportunity. An opportunity for my daughter to hear other voices (of the past) and find ways to lift her own and sing in her own way.
If you would like to bring Melody home, there’s still time for the holidays, but since she part of the BeForever line her voice and story will not be silenced.
While I was not compensated for this post, I did receive product for the intent of review. My words, thoughts, and voice are all my own.