The Newest American Girl Doll Celebrates the Harlem Renaissance

Claudie Wells is American Girl's new historical line character and it's about time.

Claudie Wells Doll Collection
Photo: American Girl

It's been a long time coming but this week American Girl added a new character to its historical line of dolls and books: Claudie Wells. Growing up in Harlem, New York, in 1922, Claudie and her family are living through the Harlem Renaissance, which is considered "the most influential movement of African American artistic and cultural expression in U.S. history," as the press release says. Prepare to be inspired!

Brit Bennett is the acclaimed author that helps bring Claudie's story to life in her selection of books designed for middle grade readers. "Before I ever sat in front of a computer to type, I had already started telling stories each time I played with my dolls. My sister and I were in love with our American Girl dolls and books, especially Addy," Bennett said in the press release, referring to Addy Walker, the first Black American Girl character. "While the doll itself was beautiful, what enchanted me was Addy's courageous story, written by the trailblazing author Connie Porter, so creating a new historical character for American Girl has been a dream come true. As a girl, I always loved studying the Harlem Renaissance, an outpouring of Black artistry that emerged alongside larger struggles for equal rights. I hope readers will enjoy exploring this fascinating era through Claudie's eyes."

In her story, 9-year-old Claudie is growing up around talented writers, painters, musicians, and singers, and begins looking for her own special talent. She turns to storytelling and starts to learn about her family's history and why Harlem is home to so many Black people looking for freedom.

Along with collaborating with Bennett to bring Claudie and her story to life, American Girl worked closely with historians such as Keisha N. Blain and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham. American Girl designers drew inspiration from 1920s historical publications, photographs, catalogues, and other resources like The Brownies' Book—a "first-of-its-kind magazine" for Black children published by W.E.B. Du Bois, an impactful figure of the Harlem Renaissance. The brand also collaborated again with Harlem's Fashion Row, a design agency bridging the gap between brands and designers of color in fashion, along with top designer Samantha Black.

Claudie is an important addition to the American Girl historical line of dolls and books in terms of representation and the period of time her story reflects. While the brand did release Addy Walker in its historical line in 1993, focusing on a story of courage and bravery, it's been a little disheartening that the popular Black character is one who was born into slavery. Prior to Claudie, American Girl briefly released two other Black dolls to its historical line after Addy, but Cecile Rey has since been archived and Melody Ellison isn't as popular. It's nice to see that American Girl is once again working toward making sure every girl sees themselves represented in its line. I love this for my daughter, and every other Black girl!

The Claudie product collection and hardcover book is available on the brand's website and at all U.S. American Girl retail locations.

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