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Three more African-American dolls I'd like to see from American Girl.

The new doll is a great start, but there's much more to African-American history.

Three more African-American dolls I'd like to see from American Girl.

For just the third time in the company's 30-year history, American Girl announced a new African-American character to their roster of historical dolls.

Meet Melody Ellison, a 9-year-old girl living in Detroit in the 1960s, a time of optimism and upheaval. Melody wants to be a singer and uses her voice to speak up about the inequality and injustice she sees in her community.


Image from American Girl, used with permission.

Created under the guidance of a six-person advisory committee consisting of educators, community advocates, historians, and even the late civil rights activist Julian Bond, Melody's story, outfits, and accessories are grounded in history and authentic to the time.

Melody joins eight other dolls in American Girl's BeForever line of historical dolls and books.

The collection includes other well-known characters like Josefina, a young girl living on a ranch in New Mexico in 1824, and Kaya, an American-Indian girl leading a life of adventure in 1764.

Kaya doll and accessories. Image via CBS This Morning/YouTube.

Melody comes less than two years after the company took some heat for discontinuing two characters of color.

In 2014, American Girl "archived" four dolls, including the company's only Asian-American doll, Ivy Ling, a Chinese-American girl living in San Francisco in the 1970s. They also shelved Cecile Rey, an African-American girl living in New Orleans in the 1850s. The two dolls were sidekicks to other dolls in the line, and the company decided to do away with doll best friends.

Cecile (left) and Ivy were both retired in 2014. Image via CBS This Morning/YouTube.

But Melody, who will be released this summer, is hitting shelves all by herself, so hopefully she'll be around for much longer.

But even so, with just two African-American characters in their BeForever line, American Girl is ignoring a wealth of history.

Since dolls and characters like these offer an access point for children to learn and experience American history, it's vital that they don't fall into the trap of "the single story." There's more to black history than slavery (told through American Girl's Addy doll) and the civil rights movement, and it's important for young people of all backgrounds to understand the historical, political, and cultural movements that brought us to where we are today.

Here are some characters and dolls from different periods in African-American history I'd love to see and purchase for the young people in my life.

1. Pearl Cooper — New York, New York, 1921

Pearl has always lived in Harlem, but her neighborhood has come alive with the sights and sounds of fresh voices and new faces. Because her mother runs a boarding house, Pearl, a young aspiring writer, gets to meet them all. What can these artists, poets, dancers, and musicians teach her about telling her own story?

What would young Pearl ask Josephine Baker? Find out in this book that doesn't exist yet. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

2. Bessie Wilborn — Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1935

Bessie's father is a tenant farmer, working off the land and going deep into debt. Her mother teaches reading and writing to children and adults in their small town. But Bessie dreams of being an inventor and tinkers with tin cans and scrap wood all day. Her father insists she hold tight to her dreams, but when he loses his land and the Wilborns are forced to move, will Bessie have to abandon her goals to help provide for her family?

Photo by Russell Lee/U.S. Farm Security Administration.

3. Amaya Lewis — Cleveland, Ohio, 2014

Amaya's world turns upside down when her older brother's best friend is killed by police. Suddenly, Amaya's once quiet neighborhood is full of demonstrations, marches, and sirens. Her family is heartbroken, and no one understands, especially her best friend Darcy, who doesn't get what any of this has to do with race. Her parents urge her to stand up for what she believes in, but what does she believe in?

Amaya could be a lot like Zaniyah Siddell, 8, seen here, who protested at the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C., last year. Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images.

This is just a small selection of characters and stories rooted in African-American history.

There's so much more to explore, and hopefully, companies (American Girl or otherwise) will take notice and continue to empower and encourage young people through creative play.

Go behind the scenes with "CBS This Morning" to see how Melody came to life.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less