May the points of our needles prick the slaveholder’s conscience.
—Angelina Grimké, The Anti-Slavery Examiner, 1836

Doll in gentleman’s top coat, 
Milton, MA, ca. 1860-70 
Mixed fabrics, leather, brass, glass

A handwritten note accompanying this doll states that it was stitched by a member of the Badger family of Milton, Massachusetts, and sold to support Union soldiers during the Civil War.    

This dignified gentleman defies racist stereotypes, perhaps a goal of doll makers for antislavery and Civil War era fundraising fairs. Some abolitionist families encouraged their children to play with dolls like this to help instill humanitarian values.

Cynthia Walker Hill (1771-1848) 
Doll representing an enslaved man, 

Cotton, silk, glass, wire, pearl 
New Bedford Whaling Museum, 
Gift of Mrs. M. Motley Sargeant, 1953.1.

The horrors of slavery are palpable in this doll, a fugitive from slavery wearing a three-pronged slave collar around his neck.   

The doll was made by Cynthia Hill, a fervent abolitionist from Providence, Rhode Island. A hotbed of abolitionist activity, Providence was one of many New England towns that formed antislavery societies in the 1830s. 

Cynthia Walker Hill (1771-1848) 
Doll representing Frederick Douglass, 
ca. 1840-48 
Cotton, silk, glass, porcelain 
New Bedford Whaling Museum, Gift of Mrs. M. Motley Sargeant, 1953.1.1

Born into slavery, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass escaped to the North and settled with his wife in the abolitionist stronghold of New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1841, he began giving lectures about his struggle for freedom and urging others to join the fight against slavery. Providence abolitionist Cynthia Hill, perhaps inspired by an eloquent speech or his compelling autobiography, created this doll in Douglass’s image to honor him and his struggle for abolition.

Growing Up with Jim Crow