Black Dolls Embracing History

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Black Dolls Embracing History

July 15, 2019 - September 20, 2019

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City Hall, Second & Third Floors, Northeast Corner

Art in City Hall, an initiative of the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative presents Black Dolls Embracing History, a project organized by Temple Contemporary and the Philadelphia Doll Museum. The showcase features a sample of the museum’s collection of antique Black dolls, African dolls, novelty dolls, as well as play dolls.  The exhibit is located near the Mayor’s Office on the second floor, and City Council offices on the third floor. 

The exhibition coincides with the 65th anniversary of Brown Vs. Board of Education, a Supreme Court case where justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision ended 60 years of the “separate be equal” doctrine that legalized racial segregation of public facilities. Chief Justice Earl Warren on May 17, 1954 wrote that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place, as segregated schools are “inherently unequal.” As part of the decision, the Supreme Court cited the psychological studies of Doctors Kenneth and Mamie Clark, the “Doll Tests”, as examples of how racial segregation inhibited the development of black children, creating a damaging sense of inferiority affecting their hearts and minds and their status in the community.  65 years later, we are reminded of this important Civil Rights history and the significant role of Black dolls.

Barbara Whiteman is the founder and executive director of the Philadelphia Doll Museum. She developed her collection by studying Black history and culture and has traveled around the country using her dolls to educate children about Civil Rights. Ms. Whiteman:

“These Black dolls are more than play objects or toys. They symbolize the struggle for freedom and human dignity. Each doll has a message of truth and strength that is important to the psychological and sociological development of Black people. Collectively, they represent visual images of how Black people were perceived throughout world history.”

Temple Contemporary is motivated in bringing more awareness to the museum’s collection, lending its exhibits and community engagement expertise to support Whiteman’s stunning and affirming collection of dolls.  

Learn more here:


July 15, 2019
September 20, 2019
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Art in City Hall
(215) 686-8446
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Art in City Hall
1400 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19107 United States
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(215) 686-8446
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