Name: Keisha Dolls
Made by and When: Keisha Doll Company, ©1983
Material: Made of a rubber-type vinyl
Marks: Except for The Groom, all dolls’ heads are marked KEISHA II / ©H.J.S. 1983 / 008695. The groom is unmarked.
Height: 23 inches
Hair, Eyes, Mouth: All dolls have black rooted hair in various styles, brown sleep eyes with lashes attached to the upper eyelids, and closed mouths with full lips. The Groom’s facial features are not as full as the girls’.
Cleopatra A Keisha, Cleopatra B Keisha, Ashanti Keisha, and another Ashanti Keisha from the Third World Doll Collection were costumed and named after historical figures by the Keisha Doll Company. The jewelry and shoes (with the exception of Cleopatra A’s shoes) were added by the curator. Cleopatra A in the gold lamé one-piece pants has long crimped hair with a hairpiece on top. The others have multiple braids.
The Groom and Naziah the Bride were catalog numbers 922M and 922, respectively. The groom wears a white gabardine tuxedo with a white sleeveless, lace-front shirt; a white bowtie, cummerbund, white socks, and white mock lace-up shoes. Naziah, which means “companion, friend,” wears a full-length white lace gown that has an attached white satin skirt underneath, white satin undies over white lace stockings, and white satin slippers. This doll’s braids are accented with white beads.
Casually Dressed Keisha wears a long-sleeved red turtleneck top and denim pants. The shoes are replaced and the earrings and hair accessories were added.
Other: Keisha dolls were available in four different skin tones. The Groom uses a different head sculpt than the other Keisha dolls shown. The Groom and Naziah the Bride have the lightest complexions. The other dolls’ complexions vary from medium to dark brown. Ashanti Keisha on the far right in the group picture of four dolls has the deepest complexion.
“The History of the Keisha Doll Company” from Black Dolls 1820 to 1991 an Identification and Value Guide by Myla Perkins (Collector Books, 1991) reads, “The Keisha Doll Company was established in 1981 by Helen J. Steward. At that time, Helen Steward was a school teacher in New York. Out of her love for children and interest in dolls, grew this wonderful doll product that would enrich children while at the same time ‘put starch in children’s backs.’ Ms. Steward retired from teaching in 1984 and devoted full time to the development of her doll company in Harlem. In the beginning, a standard, generic-type doll was used. Later, she designed her own doll by making the lips and nose slightly fuller for a more ethnic effect.
“Keisha offers a wide range of dolls while still definitely being considered an ethnic doll company with emphasis on Third World Dolls. Although many of the dolls are made from the same mold, it is the costuming that makes every doll unique. Much research goes into all the clothing and accessory details to insure accuracy of dress. Braids, pigtails, plaits, and cornrows are a part of our culture and are special features of many of the dolls.
“According to Ms. Steward, the name KEISHA was selected because of its popularity among black students. When teaching in Harlem, each class seemed to have one or more KEISHAs. After doing business in Harlem, the Keisha Doll Company moved to Florida…”
The Keisha Doll Company of ethnically correct dolls representing historically-significant African Americans and dolls dressed in everyday attire is no longer in business.
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