Doll's: Precious Playthings and Keepsakes

In their small way, dolls illustrate why the enslavement of African-Americans was called the "peculiar institution." Slaves produced handmade dolls while the master purchased elegant porcelain dolls. Whether cornstalk or china, dolls evidence common bonds as precious playthings for children and keepsakes for adults.

These replicas of dolls made by slaves are from the collection of Sherry DuPree, research librarian at Santa Fe Community College. Lacking money or materials, DuPree said, slaves improvised by using buttons or corn kernels for eyes, hand stitching or dried beans for mouths, cotton for hair and available cloth - black, white, dun or plaid - for skin.

"Many dolls show the work ethic," DuPree said. "Dolls could be holding brooms, stirring a pot or carrying a basket of fruit. The slave culture was one of work and labor, and dolls showed the way they lived."
Pace Newsletter
Santa Fe Community College
Gainesville, Florida
A historical doll display is available as a traveling exhibit.
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