The groundbreaking doll Baby Nancy, classic sidewalk chalk, and family favorite game Jenga were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame on November 5.
The honorees were chosen from a field of 12 finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi, and Yahtzee.
In 1968, Operation Bootstrap launched Shindana Toys, a community-owned company dedicated to making toys that “reflect Black pride, Black talent, and most of all, Black enterprise.” In its first year, Shindana produced Baby Nancy, a baby doll with a dark complexion and textured hair. By Thanksgiving 1968, she was the best-selling Black doll in Los Angeles, and before Christmas, she was selling nationwide. The following year, Shindana gave the baby doll an Afro, challenging white beauty norms and making her the first toy with authentic Black hair. The popularity of Baby Nancy exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct Black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.
Says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, “Although Shindana Toys ceased operations in 1983, Baby Nancy still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs.”
Historians have every reason to believe that the earliest people played with chalk, and traces of Paleolithic cave art executed in chalk have been found throughout the world. Chalk’s use in playful pursuits relies on its physical properties. Chalk that was used on early boards was made of gypsum, the dihydrate form of calcium sulfate. Great masterpieces, clever doodles, informational expressions, educational lessons, and games like tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and four square all dance together on the tip of a piece of chalk, waiting to be freed by a child’s whim.
Englishwoman Leslie Scott created Jenga based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” The game challenges players to remove one block at a time from a tower without knocking it down. With its catchy name and edge-of-your-seat gameplay, Jenga has inspired both young and old to enjoy the towering, toppling results for decades.
The National Toy Hall of Fame® at The Strong, established in 1998, recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period. Each year, the prestigious hall inducts new honorees and showcases both new and historic versions of classic toys beloved by generations.
Anyone can nominate a toy to the National Toy Hall of Fame. Final selections are made on the advice of historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers. It houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play and is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play.
[Based on a press release.]