Black Dolls explores handmade cloth dolls made primarily by African American women between 1850 and 1940 through the lens of race, gender, and history. The exhibition immerses visitors in the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making while examining the formation of racial stereotypes and confronting the persistence of racism in American history. It features more than 100 cloth dolls—many from the private collection of Deborah Neff as well as 20th-century commercial dolls and objects from New-York Historical and other collections—and dozens of historical photographs of white and Black children posed with their playthings and caregivers. Through these humble yet potent objects, Black Dolls reveals difficult truths about American history and invites visitors to engage in the urgent national conversation around the legacy of slavery and race. Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, vice president and museum director, and Dominique Jean-Louis, associate curator
Black Dolls is generously supported by the Coby Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Decorative Arts Trust.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.