What Was The True Purpose Of This Antebellum Doll?

handmade dolls in basket
Via Pixabay
Leslie Taylor-Grover
September 30, 2020

At first glance, the Topsy-Turvy doll looks like a Black rag doll. But when you lift her dress, instead of legs, there’s a white doll’s head! Flip it over, and now it’s a white doll.

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this strange toy.

The doll first appeared during slavery and was played with by both enslaved Black girls and white girls. After slavery, the doll was still popular. But why?

There are many theories. One is that they were used to teach Black girls how to be subservient to white girls. Another is that they were used to teach Black girls how to care for white babies, since many Black women were forced to serve as wet nurses. But it could be even deeper than that.

The doll could have been used to normalize white men’s sexual coercion of Black women and the biracial offspring that sometimes occurred. It also could have been a tool that showed the perceived differences between white women and Black women

So what’s the real story behind this doll?

No one knows for sure, but we do know the doll is a symbol of white supremacy reflecting the subordination of Black women to their white counterparts.  

We are part of a system that continues to find creative ways to oppress us. We must understand these attempts so we can fight against them!

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