Introducing Melody: The New American Girl Doll from the Civil Rights Era

Melody Ellison is the newest member of the American Girl family. The company is celebrating their 30th anniversary with the release of Melody, who is also their third African-American doll. According to Melody’s American Girl page, Melody is a nine-year-old girl from Detroit, Michigan with a strong sense of family and community, and a love for singing and performing in church. Her story is set during the height of the Civil Rights Era in the mid-1960’s, which the company calls “a time of great energy, optimism, and change for the African-American community.” Melody’s first book is entitled, No Ordinary Sound: A Melody Classic, and we speculate there will be many more to come. Most dolls are featured in a series of their own novels! 

The company is presenting Melody as a means for young girls to gain a deeper understanding of the “civil rights issues and the social climate of the 1960’s.” Her story combines the Motown Music scene in Detroit, which grew increasingly popular during the 1960’s, with pillars of the civil rights activism. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has a prominent place in Melody’s life as one of her greatest inspirations. As an African-American girl with a strong sense of community, a love of singing and performing, and a growing understanding and passion for racial justice, Melody is a strong-willed and vocal role model for young girls. 

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Melody is a BeForever doll, which according to Detroit News was criticized when it discontinued two BeForever minority dolls two years ago. When asked about the time it took to re-establish an African-American Doll, Julia Proshaska, American Girl’s Senior Director and Vice President of Marketing, stated: “We do approach every character very thoughtfully, so this isn’t something we rush into…We’re not looking to address critical demand, we’re looking to sell stories in the most authentic and genuine way that we possibly can.” 

Melody’s first book is already for sale, and the doll, including an “Equal Rights in ’63” label pin, will be availabe this summer. Senior historian Mark Speltz who helped create Melody’s story, emphasized the importance of “ordinary Americans” who helped shape the Civil Rights movement alongside well known activists. 

To learn more about the creation of Melody, check out this video of Denise Lewis Patrick, author of two of Melody’s books.  

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