Black History Month: The American Girl dolls, Addy and Cecile

1 Feb

Addy (left, 1864)and Cecile (right, 1853)

Addy (left, 1864)and Cecile (right, 1853)

MLK’s birthday has passed, and black history month is here, and so the focus may be on “black pride”.

Many children today really don’t understand their history, or rather don’t care about it, whether they are African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Asian, Native American, Jewish  etc. It’s a shame that I even had to witness African American children fall asleep during Dr. King movies. I’ve witnessed this recently at a school. They really take for granted the privileges they have obtained thanks to him. MLK would roll over in his grave if he could see how some of our young African American children are today.

The American Girl dolls and books to me are a great way to educate young girls about their history in a way that relates to them. Through the eyes of two nine to ten year old girls, little African American girls can learn to value their history, to be proud of themselves, and to work hard to achieve great things. I’m also happy to note that American Girl has honored Addy and Cecile for MLK’s birthday.

I’m not telling you to go out and purchase an expensive doll for black history month. But maybe you could read a story with your girls. You can purchase the books at any store or get them from the library.

Some parents don’t see the importance of their young girls knowing history, but knowing what others have gone through helps them to develop admirable and likable qualities, such as compassion, empathy, understanding, and intelligence. They realize that everything isn’t going to be handed to them, and that it is up to them to make a future for themselves, no matter how challenging life gets.

Question: Which story is better for my child?

Well, I feel both stories are important and can help in the development of mature young ladies. But both stories have different vibes about them.

Most people are uncomfortable with the topic of slavery in general. And I must warn you that from Meet Addy, it doesn’t begin nice at all. While most parents think this is too much for their kids to read or listen to, and they worry about it destroying their child’s innocence, I feel in this case innocence needs to be pierced for the sake of an education. This is why I recommend Addy strongly. Addy’s stories are the main heart of all African Americans, whether many want to face it or not. Over half of the African Americans living in the USA had ancestors who came to the USA as slaves. I encourage people to teach their children such an important topic, especially if their schools aren’t focusing on it.

The main thing that turns other African Americans away is that they find Addy to fit into what they call “stereotypes”. Many black people want to teach their children “the best” or more “positive” history, and want their African American children to see that blacks weren’t just a bunch of “uneducated, poor” slaves. Cecile seems to offer something that doesn’t fit into that stereotype, just because she is wealthy. Well, I feel this view is distorted.

Whether black people want to face it or not, African Americans were slaves in the United States, and there were slaves all around the world at that time and before (African or not). I also find it distorted to say that Addy proves to be “uneducated”. Addy didn’t speak the “proper” English throughout her series, considering she spoke the language of the “South”, but it didn’t make her dumb or less educated. That goes for Addy and all the other slaves in Addy’s stories. It took not only courage, but a clever mind for slaves to outsmart their masters when running away. It is truly distorted to consider Cecile more educated than Addy, as I’ve heard many African Americans saying. Cecile, a character who hates her private lessons more than anything, is considered more educated? No way. Addy has proven her intelligence in school throughout the series. Addy appreciates school, and values her mind above all else.

I think Cecile is a lovely doll. She teaches people about the lavish lifestyles of African Americans in New Orleans. And while I think this history shows how far we’ve come in what we teach about African Americans, relates more to girls today, and is more positive, I hardly consider Cecile to be a better influence than Addy. While Cecile develops into a compassionate, brave character, she reveals a spoiled and bratty behavior in the beginning. I would hardly consider her the role model Addy is in the beginning of her series. While, true enough, this relates to the spoiled children of today, Addy’s stories encourage hard work and love.

And not all of Addy’s stories are depressing. Once you get over the bump of Meet Addy, you get a feel of some Civil War history and life in freedom. Many of Addy’s stories have happy endings. People also have the misconception that Addy wears rags throughout her stories. False. Eventually, her mother makes sure Addy has pretty things to wear. Addy’s mother is a hard-working woman, like many mothers today. Unlike some children of today, Addy appreciates her mother. On Christmas, instead of begging for something and getting an attitude when she doesn’t get what she wants, she was planning to buy her mother a beautiful gift with her own hard-earned money,  just because she recognized how much her mother deserved it. Not once did Addy think to ask her mother for anything. Much more than I can say about Cecile, who throws a tantrum because her brother got two outfits for his homecoming, and she only got one ball gown for Mardi Gras! We also see in Addy’s stories that not every African American was a slave, as we see in Addy’s desk partner, Harriet. Yea, true enough, Harriet was a snob, and made rich black people look bad. But would you be any better than Harriet to overlook Addy’s story because she doesn’t fit the African American ideal? Another thing that irritates me is when people consider Cecile better looking than Addy. So African American girls are less pretty when they have thick hair and wear their hair in braids? Or maybe it’s because Addy has darker skin? Another distorted idea, and really the catalyst as to why so many African American girls have low self-esteem. The beauty behind African American girls wearing braids is that they get to decorate their hair anyway they want with pretty hair barrettes. In Addy’s day, with pretty ribbons. Wearing one’s hair loose doesn’t make a person any prettier.

I’m not here to discourage you from reading Cecile. Like I said, she’s lovely. Throughout her stories, she shows true empathy, compassion, and courage. Ceciles stories also encourage girls to bridge the gap between themselves and someone else who is different. Many African Americans go around hating white people for years as they reflect on “how the white man treated them”. But when you hear Cecile’s stories, you recognize that not all white people, even in the South, treated black people harshly. You also begin to see that other African Americans owned slaves, and treated them harshly, as Cecile’s rival Agnes does. This helps African American girls become open-minded. They might find they have a lot in common with someone of a different ethnicity. Remind them not to be so insecure. Not every little comment is racist or prejudiced. Teach your child to avoid racist or prejudiced comments. Black or not, it is unacceptable. This doesn’t end with ethnic backgrounds, but also social class.

Cecile’s story begins rather fun and interesting. But after the first two stories, things get a little rough. Sickness plagues Cecile’s home, and the results are pretty devastating. For a child, the books may seem rather sad and scary. But Cecile’s life is pretty privileged in comparisons to Addy’s in many ways. Still, both are interesting in their own way.

I end this article by hoping you guys make the most of Black History month by honoring the black people in the world who made a difference in the lives of many people. Perhaps you can start with the American Girls. There are very few doll collections and books that are wholesome, and produce good role models. American Girl is rarely criticized for its messages, except from people who try to find something wrong with everything.

If only they had something like this for boys. Some of these males need it severely.

4 Responses to “Black History Month: The American Girl dolls, Addy and Cecile”

  1. Zap 2017/10/26 at 10:15 #

    Wow! This is the greatest review! Thank you so much!!!!! Xo

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. American Girl’s Beforever | Generation Next - 2014/09/08

    […] Black History Month Honors Addy and Cecile […]

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  2. Do American Girl dolls of Color Sell Poorly? | Generation Next - 2014/10/28

    […] Read More about that here: American Girl Black History Month […]

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