On Women’s Equality Day, Mattel Honors the ‘Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement’ With the Rosa Parks Barbie

Photo: Barbie/Mattel

In 1955, Rosa Parks became a symbol of civil disobedience when her refusal to relinquish her seat sparked the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, a major turning point in the American civil rights movement. Now, Parks is being honored as the icon she is by another iconic brand, as a Barbie created in her likeness makes its debut today, Aug. 26, in conjunction with Women’s Equality Day 2019.

Per a release from the brand:

Rosa Parks was an incredible heroine of her time. She fearlessly took a risk that would help change the status quo and pave the way for future generations. Her story is an inspiring example of bravely standing for what is right in the face of adversity.”

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Debuting alongside a Barbie in tribute to pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, the two new dolls are part of Barbie’s “Inspiring Women Series,” which premiered on International Women’s Day 2018—the start of Barbie’s 60th year—with the intention “to honor historical role models who paved the way for generations of girls to dream bigger than ever before,” according to a release by parent company Mattel. The first round of dolls included likenesses of Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and “Hidden Figure” Katherine Johnson; the addition of Ride and Parks presents even more opportunity for young Barbie enthusiasts to learn more about the most iconic and inspiring female figures in history through the magic of play.

From Mattel:

Barbie knows that showing girls more role models (historical and present) and telling their stories can help close the Dream Gap*. Last year, the original girl empowerment brand announced the Barbie Dream Gap Project, a multi-year global initiative to raise awareness around limiting factors that prevent girls from reaching their full potential.

Photo: Barbie/Mattel

For those curious about the meaning of the Dream Gap, the team at Barbie shared that “research has identified that starting at age five many girls are less likely than boys to view their own gender as smart and begin to lose confidence in their own competence. Cultural stereotypes, implicit biases, and representation in media deepen this issue.”

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Created in partnership with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, Parks’ doll features authentic clothing and accessories, as well as educational information highlighting Parks’ contributions to society. The Glow Up spoke with Anita Peek, director of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, via email about the tremendous honor; while the woman called the “Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement” didn’t have children of her own, Parks demonstrated an unwavering commitment to children’s development and empowerment during her lifetime, as does the institute founded in her and her husband’s names.

“Because of the educational deprivation historically suffered by children of color, Mrs. Parks believed that education was the road to freedom,” Peek told us. “The Institute honors that mission every day with their programming and community outreach.”

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Along with the unique honor of being immortalized as a Barbie, Parks will also be honored by the Library of Congress this year with a major exhibition of her written works. Peek told us the institute is excited to share Parks’ still reverberating impact with younger generations.

“[W]e hope that the Rosa Parks Barbie will spark conversations about her contributions to society and encourage future generations of girls to fearlessly stand up for what they believe in,” she said.

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Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.