Editor’s note: We have published an update to this article. Read it here.
Based on photos circulating online, it appears anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells may have been honored by Barbie as one of its “Inspiring Women” dolls, putting the journalist in the company of celebrated poet Maya Angelou and civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
Although Mattel has yet to release the doll or officially make knowledge of its existence public, it appears some independent vendors may have already received news about its release. On eBay, several sellers had what appeared to be Ida B. Wells “Inspiring Women” dolls for sale at the time of this report. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the “Inspiring Women” dolls have been $35. Sellers on eBay had theirs listed at well over two to three times that price.
The Ida B. Wells doll appearing in online photos wears a dark, floor-length dress and Wells’ signature top-bun hairstyle. The doll also holds a copy of the Memphis Free Speech, the newspaper Wells was part owner of during the late 19th century. Its packaging is identical to that of other dolls featured in the “Inspiring Women” line. This publication has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the Ida B. Wells dolls being presented as part of Barbie’s “Inspiring Women” series in photos online.
Faithfully Magazine emailed a request for confirmation about the new doll to Mattel’s press department, but has yet to receive a response.
Faithfully Magazine previously published an historical profile on the “radical feminist, teacher, mother, and journalist” famously known for her seminal work, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases, reporting:
Ida B. Wells-Barnett, born in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1863 to enslaved parents, was one of the most relentless warriors for racial justice of her time. Propelled by the undercurrent of her faith in a God who saw the plight of her people, Wells-Barnett fought tirelessly against the system of lynching in the American South—even under the threat of being lynched herself.
The release of an “Inspiring Women” doll of Ida B. Wells would make her the fifth African American woman to be honored by the Barbie series. Other iconic Black figures in the line include Dr. Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, and NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.
Mattel launched the “Inspiring Women” series in 2018, with Angelou released in January 2021 as the 10th doll. The line is meant to celebrate “courageous women who took risks, changed rules and paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before,” according to Mattel.