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New American Girl Doll Celebrates Harlem Renaissance

American Girl celebrates literary heritage, the Harlem Renaissance and supports Harlem School of the Arts with a donation in funds and products.

License Global

August 23, 2022

3 Min Read
Claudie Wells
Claudie WellsMattel

Mattel is known for supporting diversity and inclusion, from Diverse Barbie Fashionista Dolls, to its Inspiring Women line of dolls or celebrating International Women’s Day. American Girl, part of the company’s portfolio of purposeful brands, also features dolls designed to inspire confidence and support diversity. American Girl has announced the launch of a new historical character – Claudie Wells – to its flagship line of dolls and books that give fans an understanding of important times in America’s past.  

Growing up in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood in 1922, Claudie and her family lived in a profound period of cultural growth that would become known as the Harlem Renaissance, an influential movement of African American artistic and cultural expression in U.S. history. In her first foray into middle-grade fiction, author and childhood American Girl fan, Brit Bennett, wrote Claudie’s story and takes readers on a journey to this moment of Black artistic joy and expression, while also exploring the challenges of the times. 

“The debut of Claudie Wells is a true full-circle moment for American Girl, and it all started with a tweet,” says Jamie Cygielman, general manager, American Girl. “In it, celebrated author, Brit Bennett, shared her desire to write an American Girl story based on her own experience with the brand. We loved the idea and felt it was the perfect time to celebrate how – after more than 35 years – American Girl has made such a positive impact on the lives of so many. The timing is even more powerful given this incredible resurgence of nostalgic love we’re experiencing from our fans of all ages. We’re thrilled to introduce Claudie and her vibrant life in 1920s Harlem to a whole new generation, and we’re honored to welcome Ms. Bennett to our rank of esteemed authors who inspire our readers every day and help us further our commitment to inclusive storytelling.” 

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In her story, nine-year-old Claudie is surrounded by talented writers, painters, musicians and singers. Each Claudie doll comes with a paperback “Meet Claudie” book, which is also available in a new keepsake, hardcover edition. 

“Before I ever sat in front of a computer to type, I had already started telling stories each time I played with my dolls,” says Bennett. “My sister and I were in love with our American Girl dolls and books, especially Addy. 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." 

To bring Claudie’s world to life, American Girl designers were inspired by 1920s historical publications, photographs, catalogs and other resources like The Brownies’ Book – a first-of-its-kind magazine for Black children published by W.E.B. Du Bois, a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. The 18-inch Claudie doll features a new face mold, brown eyes and dark, shoulder-length hair styled in bouncy ringlets and a hairbow. The Claudie doll comes dressed in her signature blue-and-white plaid dress and knit cardigan; her accessories include a heart-shaped necklace, a cloche hat, a journal and an era-authentic Baby Ruth candy bar.  

American Girl is again collaborating with Harlem’s Fashion Row, a design agency that creates a bridge between brands and designers of color in fashion, along with designer, Samantha Black, along with the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA).

The new Claudie product collection and hardcover book are available at Americangirl.com and at all U.S. American Girl retail locations. The special hardcover book can also be purchased from Amazon and other nationwide booksellers. A second Claudie book will be published next spring. 

Mattel is exhibiting at Brand Licensing Europe 2022. Find out more info here.

About the Author(s)

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