A 65 year old English-Ghanaian woman is selling “golliwogs” in the United Kingdom in an effort to reclaim her Ghanaian heritage and raise money for charity.
Retired midwife, Charlotte Nightingale who is originally from Ghana is defying convention by selling “golly dolls”, soft dolls with bright clothes, a black face, and fuzzy hair considered to be a symbol of racist stereotyping.
The Hampshire based woman is selling her “golly dolls” at fairs, school fetes and village shows and wants people to re-think the taboo surrounding them.
The grandmother offers the dolls in pinstripe trousers and red jackets at £12 for a medium and £17 for a large, and even dresses as a golly herself when she sells them.
The profits raised from her “Bring Golly Back” campaign have helped to fund education and agricultural projects in West Africa and so far she has raised more than £2,000.
Originally made by mothers for their children in West Africa, the tradition of golly dolls travelled to the US during the slave trade.
The Golly, a little black character wearing a bow tie and a red and yellow suit, was first used on Robertsons jam jars in 1910.
The dolls were called golly by children and became popular toys in the UK after featuring in American writer Florence Kate Upton’s children’s books.
The doll then also became the brand logo for Robertson’s jams, first appearing on product labels and advertising material in 1910.
But from the 1960s, the doll began to be seen to have racist connotations, partly because of the negative portrayal of golliwog characters in some literature, as well as the racist use of the word “wog”.
Charlotte Nightingale, however maintains that the doll is simply a child’s toy and said she wasn’t aware of its racist connotations until around three years ago.
“I was really shocked when I found out it had become a racist icon, I thought it was a joke. It was a friend who had a doll in her living room and hid it when I went round to see her and I found it by accident. She thought I was going to report her. It was irritating that something I have known and loved had suddenly become offensive.
“My children had lots of toys growing up but the golly was always the one they fought over. So I thought, because the dolls are so lovable and because of their universal appeal, let’s turn a negative into a positive and use it as a mascot for fundraising. And I’ve never looked back.” The 65year old originally from Ghana said.
Charlotte said the reaction when she sells the dolls has been “95 per cent positive” but added most people who talk to her say they they dislike discussing the toy and for fear of being branded racist.
She added: “The doll is now doing amazing things and changing lives.”