-Civil Rights Era Character and Motown Fan Encourages Girls to Lift Their Voices for Positive Change--
MIDDLETON, WI -- On August 25, 2016, American Girl's newest historical character Melody Ellison—civil rights believer, chorus leader, and daughter of Detroit—hit the scene. Debuting in the BeForever lineup, Melody inspires girls and their families to be a force for positive growth and change. With hope, enthusiasm, and a solid sense of fairness, 9-year-old Melody provides a glimpse of life during the 1960s—a significant decade for the civil rights movement in America and a time of great energy, optimism, challenges, and change. With the struggle for equality and justice still prevalent today, Melody bridges the past and present for girls and shows them how ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together to make a meaningful difference.
"American Girl's historical characters have long been celebrated for their educational value and for helping girls discover strength of character through things that truly matter—like helping others, being a true friend, and standing up for what's right," says Katy Dickson, president of American Girl. "We're proud to introduce Melody and hope she'll serve as an important role model to girls, giving them the courage to use their voices to speak up about what they believe in—even when it's not easy to do. A concept that's just as important today as it was over 50 years ago."
Written by award-winning author Denise Lewis Patrick, the Melody stories introduce readers ages 8 and up to Melody Ellison, who loves her close-knit family, gardening with her grandparents, and singing her heart out. Whether she's in the children's choir at church, backing up her brother's Motown music, or singing into a hairbrush with her sisters, Melody loves blending her voice with others. When Melody is asked to sing her first solo at church, she's determined to find the right song and make it perfect. She's inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and influenced by her oldest sister, a college student who is taking action to make things fair for all African Americans. As Melody experiences discrimination herself, and as she hears about the atrocities happening throughout the country, she discovers that her voice is her mightiest strength and, when joined with the voices of many, it can bring about monumental changes.
To help ensure the historical accuracy and cultural authenticity of Melody's story and products, an esteemed six-member advisory board was selected to review and provide input on all aspects of Melody's development—including the doll, books, outfits, accessories, issues, and story setting. The board members include the late Horace Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP Board of Directors and founding member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Gloria House, director and professor emerita, African and African American Studies, University of Michigan-Dearborn; Juanita Moore, President and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and founding executive director of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; Rebecca de Schweinitz, associate professor of history, Brigham Young University, Utah, and author of If We Could Change the World: Young People and America's Long Struggle for Racial Equality; Thomas J. Sugrue, professor of history at New York University and author of Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North; and JoAnn Watson, native of Detroit, ordained minister, and former executive director of the Detroit NAACP.
"I relished everything about the Melody project—from being a part of the discussion concerning Melody's appearance—her hair and skin color, clothes, and accessories—to reading manuscripts, ensuring that her African American lifestyle and cultural practices were accurate and reflective of the 1960s," said Melody advisory board member Gloria House. "I hope Melody and her stories inspire young girls today, offering them an experience rich in basic political and social concepts that they will be able to apply in their own lives."
As an important city in the civil rights movement, Melody's hometown of Detroit was selected to showcase one of the country's most vibrant and thriving black communities of the era, with more independent black-owned businesses, like Motown Records, than any other location in the country, as well as home to one of the largest chapters of the NAACP. Detroit laid claim to significant local civil rights activities, such as the 1963 Walk to Freedom march, featuring the precursor of Dr. King's now-famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The Detroit location also helps young readers understand that the struggle for civil rights was not just an issue in the South and that African Americans throughout the United States faced racial inequality and discrimination.
In addition to the stories, the Melody product collection features a beautiful 18-inch doll with dark brown eyes and black hair, plus several historically authentic 1960s doll outfits and historically inspired apparel for girls. Numerous accessories round out the play experience, including a Motown-inspired recording studio that plays and records music, a Melody block party set, and other items that bring her 1960s-era world to life.
To further engage girls in Melody's world and her inspirational message, American Girl is introducing the following activities and events:
• Lift Your Voice with Melody: To encourage people to share their photos and videos of how they're speaking up to make a difference, fans can watch the Lift Your Voice with Melody video at americangirl.com/liftyourvoice and then share their own inspiring videos and photos, using #LiftYourVoice.
• Melody Learning Materials: For parents and teachers, free, downloadable Melody Learning and Reader Discussion Guides, which explore themes and issues from the 1960s, are available at http://www.americangirl.com/corporate/parents-and-teachers
• Melody Retail Events: At American Girl retail stores, girls can listen to music that inspired Melody and celebrate her arrival with special block party food, free Melody-inspired crafts, and a free doll T-shirt giveaway.
• Detroit Community Support: American Girl is partnering with the Detroit Public Library system (22 branches) and donating $100,000 in free Melody books for any area child who wants one through the end of 2016; $50,000 in funds to support the children's area throughout the library system; and $25,000 in Melody dolls to be used for fundraising and incentives. The entire donation to the library is valued at $175,000.
• Melody Amazon Special: An original American Girl live-action special, Melody, 1963: Love Has to Win, an American GirlStory, will premiere on Amazon Prime Video this fall. The Melody special is an Amazon adaptation of American Girl's original created stories.
Log on to www.americangirl.com or to request a free American Girl catalogue, call 1-800-845-0005.