Introducing the First Black Barbie Doll 

Celebrate a milestone in history with the introduction of the first Black Barbie doll. Learn about the groundbreaking dolls and their important mission to promote diversity and inclusion.

The First Black Barbie Doll 

For decades, Barbie dolls have stood as a cultural icon of what young girls should aim to emulate. For many children, these dolls serve as a source of inspiration and self-image reflection. 

But for much too long, traditional Barbies lacked inclusivity; they were overwhelmingly white and blonde with no representation or diversity available for little Black girls who wanted to see some semblance of themselves in the iconic toy that shaped their formative years. 

Until now! Introducing the First Black Barbie Doll – made by Mattel and inspired by percussionist, singer and civil rights activist Sheila E., this new doll is only one small step forward in rectifying historical issues but it’s an amazing win for young Black girls everywhere who can now choose to identify with this unique doll full of culture and pride.

Barbie’s History of Exclusion 

As a brand, Barbie has been subject to numerous criticisms about its lack of diversity in race, body type, and even career choices. Over the years, Mattel has released a few versions of Black Barbie dolls but they were often overshadowed by the traditional blonde-haired, blue-eyed doll that dominated the market.

But with the release of this new Black Barbie doll, Mattel is making a statement about the importance of inclusion and representation. They have even created a line of diverse Barbie dolls with different body types, skin tones, and careers to further promote diversity and empower young girls to see themselves in their toys.

The Mission of the First Black Barbie Doll 

The first Black Barbie doll is not just a toy; it’s a symbol of progress and change. It sends a powerful message to children that they are seen, heard, and valued in society. This new doll also aims to break down stereotypes and promote a more inclusive image of beauty.

By creating diverse dolls, Mattel is encouraging children to celebrate their differences and embrace diversity. The First Black Barbie Doll is just the beginning of a larger movement towards representation and inclusivity.

What Was the First Black Barbie Doll Ever Made? 

In 1967, Mattel introduced their first attempt at creating a “black” Barbie with the release of the “Colored Francie” doll. However, despite its intentions, Francie was simply a replica of her white counterparts, featuring the same head mold but with deeper-toned skin. Unfortunately, “Colored Francie” did not accurately represent the majority of black women in the early 70s, and due to poor sales, it was discontinued in 1968.

In response to the Equal Rights Movement, Mattel introduced the first non-white Barbie doll, Christie, in 1968. Originally released as a paper doll, Christie was later reintroduced as part of a set of “Talking Dolls” along with two other dolls. All three dolls had a string in the back that, when pulled, would say phrases like “Let’s go shopping with Barbie” and “I love being a fashion model.” Christie also made an appearance in the Barbie movie, “Barbie & Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure” (2015). The Christie Doll underwent several revamps from 1968 to 2018. While the doll is no longer being produced, Christie, as the first successful “black” Barbie, will always be remembered.

After Francie, Mattel made another attempt to cater to the African-American community in 1969 with the release of the Julia doll, modeled after African-American actress Diahann Carroll. Diahann played the character Julia, a nurse, in a popular TV show of the same name during the 1970s. Julia became one of the first celebrity Barbie dolls.

It wasn’t until 1980 that Barbie, the first African-American doll to proudly bear the Barbie name, was released. Although Christie may have been the first black/ deep-toned Barbie doll, Barbie (1980) was the groundbreaking doll that broke the mold, sporting an afro and deep skin. She became the first African-American Barbie who was given the official title of Barbie and her own identity. No longer labeled as “Barbie’s black best friend,” she paved her way in the Barbie world and left a lasting impact.

Throughout the years, Mattel’s Barbie dolls have undergone significant transformations, striving to be inclusive and diverse. From the early attempts with “Colored Francie,” to the introduction of Christie, Julia, and finally the Barbie doll herself, Mattel’s journey towards diversity and representation has shaped the perception and acceptance of beauty for generations to come.

How Was the First Black Barbie Made?

In 1968, Mattel introduced its first Black doll named Christie, who was a friend of Barbie. This happened during a time when the American public was still grappling with the results of a “doll test” that had influenced the desegregation of schools. The test showed a preference for lighter-skinned dolls among Black children, revealing early evidence of internalized racism.

In response to this, Shindana, a toy company founded by activist Lou Smith, sought to create toys that reflected real Black people and promoted self-love within the community. Mattel played a role in this by sending people from their company to assist Shindana in making Black dolls.

As the visibility of Mattel’s Christie doll and other Black friends like “Julia” and “Francie” increased, Shindana made significant progress in normalizing and popularizing Black dolls across the United States. Their very first doll, Baby Nancy, was even inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame in 2020.

However, it would take more than a decade before the creation of Black Barbie. By that time, Ms. Mitchell, who had worked on the production line, had moved to Mattel’s corporate offices. Seven years later, Kitty Black Perkins became Mattel’s first Black designer and she was determined to design the company’s first Black Barbie.

Perkins gathered her team, consisting of a Black hair designer and a sculpturing designer who was also a man of color, and discussed the idea of creating a doll with Black features. Within five years, they successfully designed the Black Barbie, considering their childhoods and the impact on future generations of Black youth.

Through the efforts of individuals like Perkins and companies like Mattel and Shindana, Black dolls became a powerful representation and source of empowerment for Black children.

In the insightful documentary “Black Barbie,” Ms. Perkins expresses the importance of providing a toy that represents little Black girls. She wanted this doll to embody the beauty and essence of a Black woman, contrasting the typical Barbie image. With bold colors, statement jewelry, short hair, and a revealing wrap skirt, this Black Barbie exudes confidence and style. Inspired by the iconic Diana Ross, Ms. Perkins aimed to capture the essence of her fashion choices.

Together, the team crafted a doll with a short natural hairstyle, fuller lips, and a slightly wider nose. When compared to the traditional Barbie, the difference is striking. While the doll’s skin tone is slightly lighter than some may have desired, Ms. Perkins had a specific preference in mind.

In 1980, Black Barbie finally made her debut, and the packaging proudly proclaimed her identity: “She’s Black! She’s beautiful! She’s dynamite!” This momentous occasion marked a significant step forward in representation, as the doll was given the powerful name of “Barbie” rather than a generic alternative. This allowed young Black girls to see themselves as the heroines of their stories, the center of attention, and the epitome of beauty.

Dr. Turner, another contributor to the documentary, emphasizes the significance of this milestone. In the world of imagination and play, Barbie takes the spotlight. She is the one admired and aspired to be. It is a message that every individual, regardless of their background, should embrace and celebrate their own unique identity, rather than aspiring to be merely a supporting character.

Discover the groundbreaking journey of Black Barbie and the profound impact she has had on empowering young Black girls. 

Why Was it Important? 

The first Black Barbie doll was important because it addressed issues of underrepresentation and lack of diversity in mainstream media, specifically in dolls. By creating a Black Barbie doll, Mattel acknowledged the importance of representation and inclusion for young girls of color. This doll was not just a toy – it was a symbol of progress and a step towards breaking racial barriers in the toy industry. It also gave young Black girls the opportunity to see themselves as beautiful, confident, and worthy of being represented in popular culture.

How Did it Impact Society? 

How Did it Impact Society? 

The impact of the first Black Barbie doll goes beyond just the toy industry. It sparked conversations about representation and diversity in other areas of society, such as media, fashion, and beauty. It also served as a source of empowerment for young Black girls who finally had a doll that looked like them and represented their culture. The first Black Barbie doll opened up possibilities and paved the way for future generations to see themselves represented in various forms of media, breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity.

What Black Barbie Dolls Looked Like Throughout History?

Francie – 1967

Did you know that before Christie, there was Francie? Mattel released Francie in 1967, making her the first Barbie friend with a darker skin tone. From 1966 to 1976, Francie Fairchild captivated young minds and was even brought back in 2011. 

Originally Barbie’s European cousin, Francie quickly became a beloved character in her own right. Join the revolution with Francie, the doll that broke barriers.

Christie – 1968

The revamped Christie by Mattel celebrates 55 years of iconic brilliance. With its eye-catching orange mini dress, this edition pays homage to Christie’s famous Talking Christie orange bikini, concealed beneath her stylish swimsuit cover-up. 

As the years passed, Christie’s appearance transformed, embracing a richer skin tone and a fabulous afro hairstyle, before eventually being retired in 1978. Mattel proudly affirms that Christie’s creation was a powerful statement in the fight for equality, making her legacy all the more impactful.

Julia – 1969

Julia - 1969

Inspired by the hit TV show that took the world by storm from 1968 to 1971. Julia made history as the first weekly series to feature an African-American woman in a progressive and empowering role – a nurse. 

Portrayed by the talented Diahann Carroll, Julia Baker captivated hearts as a widowed single mom and registered nurse. Carroll’s outstanding performance even earned her a prestigious Golden Globe award. Get ready to celebrate diversity and inspiration with the iconic Julia Barbie doll.

Cara – 1975

Step back in time to 1975, when Cara made her grand entrance into the toy world. This iconic doll came in two exciting versions: Quick Curl Cara and Free Moving Cara. 

But the fun didn’t stop there. In 1976, Mattel took Cara to the next level with the release of Quick Curl Deluxe Cara and Cara Ballerina. Get ready to relive the magic of these beloved dolls!

Black Barbie – 1980

Step back in time to the iconic world of Barbie, where Francie and Christie were advertised as Barbie’s friends in an attempt to bring racial diversity. However, they remained overshadowed by the renowned Barbie herself. It wasn’t until 1979 that the first official Black Barbie doll would make its debut.

Enter Kitty Black Perkins, a true pioneer in the toy industry. Perkins became famous for designing the groundbreaking Black Barbie, marking a turning point in diversifying the immensely popular doll franchise. Her creation showcased a bold red bodysuit with a trendy disco skirt, complemented by a modernist necklace, hoop earrings, and dangle earrings.

Perkins’ contributions didn’t stop there. She rose to the prestigious position of Chief Designer of Fashions and Coll Concepts at Mattel, the company behind Barbie. Her imaginative designs surpassed 100 in number, leaving an indelible mark on the doll universe.

Recognizing her exceptional talent, Mattel awarded Perkins the Chairman’s Award twice, in 1985 and 1987, the highest honor given to a Mattel employee. She also received the esteemed Doll of the Year Award within the doll industry. In 2001, Perkins was honored with induction into the Black Hall of Fame, cementing her legacy.

Shani & Friends – 1991

This groundbreaking line of dolls took the world by storm in 1991. Mattel, a renowned toy company, made history with their first-ever attempt to create ethnically correct black dolls. 

These dolls showcased authentic Afrocentric features, a range of skin tones to celebrate the diversity within the black community, and various hair colors and textures. 

The debut collection featured three incredible characters: Shana, Asha, and Nichelle. In a nod to the iconic “Star Trek” actress, one of our dolls was named after the talented Nichelle Nichols herself. 

Asha – 1994

Experience the vibrant energy of African fashion with the Asha collection by Mattel. This exclusive line of three dolls pays homage to African textiles and the beauty of African-American style. Sadly, this stunning collection was only available for a limited time. 

Kenyan Barbie – 1994

Experience the allure of the Kenyan Barbie doll as she showcases the rich traditions of the Masai warrior. Adorned in a captivating red and white checked shuka dress, this doll is a sight to behold. 

A stunning kanga red cape drapes over her dress, adorned with elegant white designs, while an elaborate, multi-colored collar adds a touch of opulence. 

Complete with matching accessories such as a bracelet, anklet, and red earrings, this doll is sure to transport you to the vibrant culture of Kenya.

Nikki – 1996

In 1996, a vibrant character named Nicole “Nikki” O’Neil entered the Barbie universe as Skipper’s loyal best friend. However, Nikki underwent a fascinating transformation in 2005, earning the esteemed title of Barbie’s ultimate confidante.

Fast forward to late 2020, when Nikki and Barbie made waves across the internet with a powerful video tackling the urgent issue of racism. Together, these empowering dolls took a stand against injustice and sent a resounding message of unity.

Ghanaian Barbie from Dolls of the World collection – 1996

This limited edition doll embodies the rich culture of Ghana, dressed in a stunning Kente cloth tunic dress and adorned with vibrant accessories. With a turban on her head and golden sandals on her feet, she is ready to explore the lush forests of West Africa. Complete with exquisite jewelry, this African beauty captivates with her charm and elegance.

Tangerine Twist Barbie – 1997

Tangerine Twist Barbie was designed by Kitty Black Perkins.

With elegance and sass, this Barbie embodies the modern African-American woman. Here’s a doll that exudes glamour, excitement, and confidence.

Ruby Radiance Barbie – 1997

This is a stunning doll from the Jewel Essence Collection, created by esteemed fashion designer Bob Mackie. This limited edition Barbie is adorned with beautiful Swarovski crystals, making her a true treasure to behold.

Fantasy Goddess of Africa Barbie – 1999

This exquisite doll, designed by Bob Mackie, is a cherished piece from the International Beauty Collection.

Featuring intricate beadwork that required immense skill and attention to detail, this Barbie was truly a work of art. Its limited production makes it even more rare and coveted, with only a maximum of 20,000 units available worldwide.

Don’t miss the opportunity to own this extraordinary Barbie that embodies the beauty and spirit of Africa. Get ready to be captivated by its enchanting allure and undeniable charm.

Brandy Barbie – 1999

Created by Mattel and designed by the talented Kitty Black Perkins.

Celebration Barbie – 2000

Celebrate the new millennium with Mattel’s special edition 2000 Barbie, featuring a diverse African-American doll.

Mystery Squad’s Shawnee – 2002

Introducing Shawnee, the enigmatic member of Mystery Squad since 2002.

So In Style Dolls – 2009

In 2009, renowned Barbie designer Stacey McBride-Irby introduced the extraordinary So In Style (S.I.S.) line. What motivated her? Simply the sight of her daughter playing.

These innovative fashion dolls not only showcase true diversity and culture; they also empower young girls to embrace inspiration and reach for the stars. McBride-Irby’s words capture it perfectly: “I want my new So In Style dolls to be authentic representatives of my community, and I want girls everywhere to dream big.”

Meet the inspirational mentors of the So In Style Dolls: Grace, Trichelle, and Kara. These “big sisters” provide guidance and support to their younger counterparts, Courtney, Janessa, and Kiana.

Barbie Basics – 2010

These collector’s edition dolls are all about fashion basics, showcasing the iconic little black dress. What’s more, this line celebrates diversity with its range of dolls.

Forget about names, these dolls are all about numbers. Take Model No. 4, for example, who shares the same head mold as the Fantasy Goddess of Africa doll. And that’s not all – both Model No. 8 and Model No. 10 are African-American dolls, each with a unique skin tone and hairstyle.

Barbie’s Tribute Collection: the Laverne Cox Barbie doll

This exquisite piece celebrates the extraordinary achievements of Laverne Cox, a remarkable Black trans actress. Not only is she an inspiration in her groundbreaking career, but she has also dedicated herself to advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.

And more…

Barbie gets a stylish and diverse update for Black History Month 2020, thanks to renowned celebrity stylist Shiona Turini. The costume designer for Queen & Slim brings a fresh look to Barbie, showcasing a wide range of skin tones, hairstyles, and body types.

And the new additions don’t stop there – meet Barbie’s friend, Brooklyn, also known as Barbie Roberts. Brooklyn takes center stage as one of the main characters in the exciting 2021 film, Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams, and the upcoming 2022 TV series, It Takes Two. 

Continuing the Legacy 

Since the introduction of the first Black Barbie doll, Mattel has continued to diversify its Barbie line with different skin tones, hair textures, and body types. This is a testament to the impact and success of the first Black Barbie doll – it showed that representation matters and there is a demand for diversity in toys. By continuing this legacy, we can promote inclusivity and celebrate the beauty of all cultures and backgrounds.


Though the First Black Barbie Doll was released in 1980 it has not only changed how black children view themselves but also how they are viewed by others. It was a huge step for young girls of color who, before that release, did not have a doll to relate to. 

Mattel’s dedication to creating a doll that represents all children regardless of their gender or race deserves recognition and admiration. 

As an effort to show just how much representation matters, consider actively searching out dolls and toys featuring black characters in your local stores and showing your understanding of the importance these items had for minority groups over time. 

Moreover, start discussions with young people about the historic significance of Black Barbie dolls to ensure that this history doesn’t get lost or disregarded, as appreciating our past helps us understand and appreciate our present. 

Celebrate Mattel’s legacy of diverse representation in their Barbies and be a living example of why more dolls like this need to exist!

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