Name: Christine, Debbie, and Other Dolls by Beatrice Wright Brewington (B. Wright)
Made by and When: B. Wright Toy Company, Ltd., late 1960s
Material: Lyka skin (a type of rigid vinyl advertised as “the closest thing to nature’s cover.”)
Marks: The dolls’ heads are either marked 11 / B. Wright or Beatrice Wright / ©1967.
Height: 19 inches
Hair, Eyes, Mouth: Black rooted hair in different styles, brown sleep eyes with bristle upper eyelashes and painted lower eyelashes, closed mouths; broad facial features represent people of African ancestry. Boys usually have straight hair with a side part. Christine and Debbie, the gallery dolls with original boxes, have two braids with bangs and long straight hair with bangs, respectively. Three dolls in the group picture have short rooted hair; the fourth doll’s hair is styled like Christine’s.
Clothes: Christine wears a yellow dress with smocked bodice, white undies, white socks, and white vinyl shoes. Debbie wears a white lace-trim-collared pink dress, white undies, white socks, and white shoes. With the exception of the boy in the patch denim overalls, the dolls in the group photo are redressed.
Other: According to Black Dolls 1820-1991 an Identification and Value Guide by Myla Perkins (Collector Books, 1993), the B. Wright Toy Company, Inc., circa late 1960s-?, was “the first ‘Negro’ toy company to manufacture dolls and stuffed toys.” Beatrice Wright Brewington was an African American female entrepreneur and educator who realized the need for natural-looking dolls for children of color. Her dolls were known as the “Ethnic People Dolls.”
The company manufactured several different Black dolls and dolls representing other ethnicities. The most highly sought-after Black B. Wright dolls are Christine and Christopher. The same mold was used for the 19-inch dolls, most of which were named after Mrs. Wright’s family members. After business ceased, some of the molds were sold to Totsy. Manufacture of the dolls continued under Totsy throughout the late 1980s and possibly into the early 1990s.
Mrs. Wright’s biography appears on page 299 in Black Dolls by Myla Perkins. The first paragraph reads: “I was born on a county farm in North Carolina and received my elementary and high school education in Faison, N.C. I majored in elementary education and art, received my B.A. Degree from Shaw University, Raleigh, N.C…” Wright continues, “During 1955 I instructed 19 girls in the art of making dolls. The idea was very well received and has been improved and grown into the business I now operate… I pride myself in having developed many natural looking dolls and stuffed toys which have been copyrighted. I trust they will be perpetuated for a long time to come.” To perpetuate Wright’s dolls for a long time to come is the purpose of this installation.
Gallery (Photographs of Debbie, the doll in the pink dress, are from the Dawn Spears Black Legacy Images Collection.)
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