On Saturday, American Girl debuted its latest doll: Melody Ellison, a 9-year-old Black girl from Detroit, growing up in the civil rights era. According to the company, Melody is an aspiring singer who finds her voice in the Motown sound of 1963. American Girl fans are praising the brand for its newest doll. Before Melody, the only Black doll in the American Girl line was Addy Walker, an escaped slave. The company had made a doll named Cécile, who lived in 19th-century New Orleans, but she was discontinued in 2014 along with the line's only Asian doll. The company faced harsh criticism for its lack of diversity. When creating Melody, Mic reports that American Girl consulted with a "six-member advisory board" that included the late civil rights activist Julian Bond to "review and provide input on all aspects of Melody's development." Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and one of the consulting authorities in Melody's design, told The Detroit Free Press that Melody's story shows that discrimination wasn't just a southern problem in the 1960s. "The truth about the civil rights movement is that all of those individuals, they were not rich, they were not powerful, but they created change that changed the way every single person in this country lives today, and impacted human rights movements worldwide," Moore said. "Just to think about that young girl Melody, although a fictional character," he said. "It says any one of us can do that, even a young girl."
The Melody doll and her first full-length novel, No Ordinary Sound, are available for $115 on the American Girl website. The company has also donated $100,000 worth of paperback Melody books to Detriot's 22 public libraries.