Current Exhibition

Black Dolls

February 25, 2022 - June 5, 2022

Immerse yourself in the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making while examining the creation of racial stereotypes and the persistence of racism in American history.


1st floor, Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History

Black Dolls explores handmade cloth dolls made primarily by African American women between 1850 and 1940 through the lens of race, gender, and history. The exhibition immerses visitors in the world of dolls, doll play, and doll making while examining the formation of racial stereotypes and confronting the persistence of racism in American history. It features more than 100 cloth dolls, alongside dozens of historical photographs of white and Black children posed with their playthings and caregivers. A coda explores 20th-century commercial dolls marketed to a broader audience of Black families seeking to instill pride in their children. Through these humble yet potent objects, Black Dolls reveals difficult truths about American history and invites visitors to engage in the urgent national conversation around the legacy of slavery and race.

Curated by Margaret K. Hofer, vice president and museum director, and Dominique Jean-Louis, associate curator

Check out recent coverage of the exhibition:

Black Dolls is generously supported by the Coby Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Decorative Arts Trust.

Additional support provided by Carol Sutton Lewis and Bill Lewis and by New-York Historical's Frederick Douglass Council.

Shop the Black Dolls Collection

The NYHistory Store has a full selection of books, dolls, and figurines related to the Black Dolls exhibition.

Browse the collection

Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.

  • NYC Cultural Affairs
  • NY Council on the Arts

Media sponsor:

  • WNET New York Public Media