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In the 1940s, African-American psychologists Kenneth Bancroft Clark and his wife, Mamie Phillps Clark, designed a test known as the “doll test” to see how children responded to race. The test was administered to black children between the ages of three and seven. When the children were asked which of the four dolls that they were shown did they prefer, the majority selected the white doll and described it as most desirable, whereas the black dolls were described as the least desirable.

In recent years, there have been conscious attempts within the toy industry to present a more diverse selection of dolls—Mattel introduced the “black” Barbie, the cabbage patch kids now include dolls of a darker hue, and Disney released a doll of its first black princess. Despite these efforts, some African-Americans have taken it upon themselves to create and produce dolls and other kid friendly items to help instill a sense of self-pride and self-awareness in minority children. Here’s our list of those black toy companies that are helping to make the industry more reflective of today’s diverse children’s population:

HIA Toys

From the time he was a little boy, Sterling Ashby was a comic book enthusiast. His boyhood passion and a Christmas shopping experience inspired him to create his own line of collectibles. The idea came to Ashby in 2003 when he purchased a doll of a famous scientist for a friend’s son. Ashby and the young boy were both amazed by the doll. Using that experience as a guide, Ashby launched History in Action Toys, a line that consists of a series of action figures that Ashby describes as fun, positive role models whose real-life stories are designed to awaken both a child’s imagination and appeal to the kid in everyone.

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