What Does the New Black Barbie Say about African Americans and Hair?

barbie92 BOSTON--- Mattel recently released a new line of black Barbie dolls. The "So In Style" Barbies stand out from earlier black Barbies, who shared the features of their white counterparts but were painted brown.

The new dolls are named Grace, Kara and Trichelle, and were designed by an African American woman, Stacey McBride-Irby. McBride-Irby told the Associated Press that she wanted to create a line of dolls for young black girls, like her 6-year old, that looked more like them.

The new dolls have wider noses, more pronounced cheek bones, a variety of skin tones and fuller lips. But their hair is smooth and silky, and little girls can keep it that way with a hair straightening kit.

That puts the new black Barbie in the middle of the debate over African American women's hair, that's been stirred also by Chris Rock's new documentary "Good Hair."

Francie Latour is a black woman who wrote about what she calls "the line the new black Barbies won't cross" in the Boston Globe.  She says that hair has become an obsession for many black women.  Latour points out that during slavery, a black woman with straight hair would likely be treated better than a woman with more African looking hair.  Latour is associate editor at Wellesley Magazine and former reporter for the Boston Globe.
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This program aired on November 4, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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