In 1890, carpenter Leo Moss taught himself to craft dolls that his wife, dressmaker Lee Ann Moss, would then outfit.
This husband and wife duo morphed their cherished hobby into a side hustle. But their intention wasn’t to make money.
Leo knew that the only dolls sold on the market were white babies, which didn’t affirm the beautiful skin tones and features of Black girls and boys.
Partnering with a toy manufacturer in New York, the Moss’s Macon, Georgia home became their workshop, where custom dolls were assembled from scrap parts - all to make young Black kids feel special and loved.
Today, you can spot a Leo Moss original by the inscriptions he carefully sewed into the backs or necks of his family’s creations.
The expressive nature of these dolls also evolved to include sad tear-stained faces some collectors believe was his way of highlighting the often misunderstood emotional impact oppression has on Black people.
The talented Moss family creations are rare finds which remind us that long before Mattel made Black Barbies available in the 1980s, representation was a priority for Black crafters.