Good Golly! You Stock Golly Dolls?
Yes we do stock Golly Dolls (Golliwoggs) and here’s our reasons why:
Our decision to sell Golly Dolls is one that can evoke strong feelings on both sides of the debate. It is not a decision we have made lightly and it is not based on any racial bias.
There are people who feel that Gollies are, and have always been, a racist symbol and should be banned. We believe it is narrow minded, bigoted people have used the doll as a racist symbol over the years. We are determined not to give in to that.
Those who think they should be banned sometimes don’t have accurate knowledge of the history of the Golly, which originally appeared as a character in a children’s book by Florence Upton in 1895.
Florence Upton was born in the United States but immigrated to England at a young age. She had a doll as a child, which was a nameless minstrel doll. She remembered it as being badly treated and she felt bad about that. When she wrote her first book she incorporated her memories of that badly treated doll into the book. She created a character based on the doll and it was she who invented the name “Golliwogg” for the character. It was in essence a caricature of a caricature and not based on her impression of a black person. In fact the images from the book also reveal that a small African doll character is drawn perfectly life-like with no exaggerated or distorted features whatsoever. The book, called “The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwog”, redeemed the childhood memory of Upton’s badly treated minstrel doll. The book portrayed the main characters at the start of the story as believing the Golliwogg was frightening but it quickly becomes clear that he is, in fact, friendly and gallant. Upton was not creating a stereotype or racist caricature (remember she invented the character). Exactly the opposite was the case.
Initially Acquisitions stocked both black and white Golly Dolls but no one bought the white ones and we probably still have some somewhere!. The customers buying the traditional ones are universally people who have a sentimental attachment to something that was important to them in their childhood or people who understand the character for what it was intended to be. If we believed people were buying these dolls as a racist statement we would not sell them, just as we refuse to sell ashtrays, yard glasses, and drinking games. We used to sell the latter and they were very lucrative but we made a decision to stop stocking them, as we believe they contribute to a harmful culture. We do not feel that way about our Gollies.
Our view is that Gollies deserve better than to continue to be misrepresented as a racist symbol and we object to racists being able to have their way with a character that was never intended to be racist. Some argue that the problem is best dealt with by banning the doll altogether but we believe it is best dealt with by respecting its true origin and its beauty.
Then all look round, as well they may
To see a horrid sight!
The blackest gnome
Stands there alone,
They scatter in their fright.
With kindly smile he nearer draws;
Begs them to feel no fear.
“What is your name?”
Cries Sarah Jane;
“The ‘Golliwogg’ my dear.”
Their fears allayed each takes an arm,
While up and down they walk;
With sidelong glance
Each tries her chance,
And charms him with “small talk”.
ABOVE: An excert from the book “The Adventures of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg” (1895) by Florence Upton