March 9 marks National Barbie Day. The iconic toy officially debuted over 60 years ago at the American International Toy Fair in New York, according to Barbie Media. It wasn’t until 1979 that Mattel’s first African American “Barbie” hit the scene. It was available for purchase a year later, in 1980. The first Black Barbie was designed by Louvenia “Kitty” Black Perkins, a South Carolina native. As reported by Dolls Magazine, Perkins landed an interview with Mattel after answering a blind ad.
Even though Black Barbies did exist in the “Barbie-verse” prior to 1980, there wasn’t a stand-alone doll in retail. There were three black fashion dolls from Mattel, Francie (1967), Christie (1968), and Julia (1969), according to Dolls Magazine.
Mattel has since then produced dolls reflecting all body types and skin tones. They even revamped the historic Black Barbie in 2020. You may even remember dolls with the likeness of Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Halley Barry, Destiny’s Child, Raven-Symone, Brandy, and Nicki Minaj. Most recently, Mattel debuted the Disney Little Mermaid Ariel Doll, inspired by the movie featuring singer and actress Halle Bailey.
Here is a list of 19 influential Black Barbie Dolls.