by Roz Edward
Dr. Maya Angelou, inarguably one of the most prolific writers and the source of inspiration for millions of black girls and women is being immortalized on a platform rarely afforded to Black women. Mattel has announced that a tribute to the literary icon is the latest in its Barbie Doll Inspiring Women Series. The historic doll line which has been criticized in the past for the lack of black images is honoring Angelou and other present-day women of color role models who paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before.
Angelou’s accomplishments as a renowned writer, author, activist, actress and educator are legendary. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years along with receiving dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees.
Now the noted Presidential Medal of Freedom who in 1993 recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton, became the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.
Thus far, Barbie’s now three-year-old series “has paid tribute to a diverse lineup of women including Amelia Earhart, Katherine Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Billie Jean King, Ella Fitzgerald, Florence Nightingale, and Susan B. Anthony — all of whom made history by making the world a better place for future generations of girls.”
Angelou published the first of her seven autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, in 1969, which told a poignant and moving account of her own coming-of-age story, a girlhood interrupted by abandonment, displacement, abuse and assault amid Jim Crow-era racism in the South.
Several of her most popular and powerful poems include “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman.”
“My mother, Dr. Maya Angelou, was a pioneer and an activist with an invincible spirit for justice,” Guy Johnson, Maya Angelou’s only child and the executor of her estate said in a statement. “Through her words and actions, she developed a unique ability to create deep connections with people around the world. She used to say, ‘I write from the Black perspective, but I aim for the human heart.’ I am delighted that Barbie has chosen her as one of its Inspiring Women. I hope the Barbie Maya Angelou doll will inspire new generations of teachers, writers and activists.”
Barbie’s rendering of a thirty-something-year-old Angelou is refreshingly evocative, featuring her warm, gap-toothed smile and a decidedly Black, non-traditional Barbie nose.
As part of Barbie’s 2020 commitment to the Black community, the brand pledged to spotlight more Black role models — now in 2021 and going forward, more than 50 percent of global role models featured will be Black, Indigenous and Women of Color.
“Diversity and inclusion must be the foundation of all that we do,” Matell executives said in a statement. “We will continue to stand united in the fight against racism and dedicate resources to directly impact the Black community, such as funding through the Dream Gap Project Fund, to help remove barriers that prevent the next generation from reaching their full potential. Our efforts include a commitment to spotlight more Black role models who are female, and now, we are introducing a doll that honors Dr. Maya Angelou, author and activist who used her voice and unique writing style to connect with people and inspire generations, particularly Black women.
The Dr. Maya Angelou Inspiring Women doll is available for pre-order now (SRP: $29.99); more information is available at the Barbie website. Beginning Jan. 14, the doll will be sold in-store and online at Target to kick off this year’s celebration of Black History Month, as well as on Amazon.