July 18, 2024

Texas woman creates first HBCU doll line, now sold at Walmart and Target – USA TODAY

When a Texas woman searching for an HBCU doll to gift a friend couldn’t find any, she decided to created her own line.
Brooke Hart Jones, the creator of HBCyoU Dolls, said she was shocked she couldn’t find any dolls representing students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities available in 2020. Now, Jones has created the first and only HBCU doll line that’s sold in major retail stores worldwide.
“We’re very proud of that. We want to use it as an opportunity to plant the seed of higher learning, and use as a tool to teach history… spread our legacy and champion and highlight and preserve the legacy of historically black colleges and universities,” Jones said.
“I was looking for them to buy as a birthday gift. I am a former toy buyer. I have a background in merchandising… and I’m a lifelong doll lover, and a proud, HBCU alum,” Jones said.
So, when Jones found herself furloughed during the pandemic, it became the perfect opportunity for her to start making her own.
She put together a website and social media pages and soon after, began selling her dolls online.
Eventually, Purpose Toys, a company that supports black toy businesses reached out to her to collaborate. Jones said the company’s support helped her scale her business, sell the dolls at a more affordable price and reach a larger audience. Now, they’re being sold at large retailers like Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Amazon. 
The dolls represent major themes associated with HBCUs. Jones hopes the dolls expose more people to the culture of HBCUs.
“So, we want it to represent the major kind of iconic figures and archetypes within the HBCU culture,” she said.
Some of the dolls include a homecoming queen, highlighting the “iconic” homecoming culture seen at HBCUs.
“At historically black colleges and universities, homecoming is like no other. There’s like a full on royal court and pageantry that could rival the British monarchy. That’s just a subculture that mainstream media probably isn’t aware of, but in the African American community being a homecoming queen at an HBCU is everything,” Jones explained.
Other dolls include a majorette and a cheerleader.
“Majorettes — their style of dance and their performances are just iconic and really idolized in the HBCU and black community. HBCU cheerleaders, they have their own unique style of cheerleading, that we’re very proud of. It brings a lot of spirit and pride at our football and basketball,” she said.
The dolls also highlight the spirit of social activism that has long been a foundation in HBCU culture, Jones said.
“They’ve been at the epicenter of social activism helping improve this country, not only for African Americans, but women’s rights and just civil rights as a whole,” she said.
Jones said her favorite dolls are “Nicole,” a homecoming queen that was launched in 2022 and “Autumn,” a majorette launched this year. The dolls are named after women in Jones life including her sister, cousin and best friend.
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The dolls are not just meant to be one that look like some of the little kids who will play with them, they’re also designed with the purpose of inspiring young kids to succeed.
“We’ve made a lot of strides with diverse skin color in the toy space. There’s been a lot of improvement but now we want to go deeper than just our beautiful hair and beautiful skin tone. We want to have more depth,” Jones said.
That’s why all of the dolls not only have different skin tones, and hair textures but their own backgrounds, majors, interests and leadership roles, she explained.
“We want our dolls to inspire encourage children to dream big, work hard and achieve their goals,” Jones said.

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