Pioneering Black doll Baby Nancy, Jenga, sidewalk chalk join National Toy Hall of Fame

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong announced the inductees for the 2020 Toy Hall of Fame class Thursday.

The votes have been counted and results are in! Baby Nancy, sidewalk chalk, and Jenga were ultimately chosen from a field of 12 finalists.

“More than ever, this year has reinforced the power of play, and its ability to lift the spirits,” said Christopher Bensch with The Strong. “Today’s inductees also show us the breadth of play things, from the ancient, to the classic, to the culturally groundbreaking.”

The full list of finalists were announced earlier this year, and included:

  • Baby Nancy
  • Bingo
  • Breyer Horses
  • Jenga
  • Lite-Brite
  • Masters of the Universe
  • My Little Pony
  • Risk
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Sorry!
  • Tamagotchi
  • Yahtzee

About Baby Nancy

In 1968, Operation Bootstrap launched Shindana Toys, a community-owned company dedicated to making toys that “reflect Black pride, Black talent, and most of all, Black enterprise.” In its first year, Shindana produced Baby Nancy, a baby doll with a dark complexion and textured hair. By Thanksgiving 1968, she was the best-selling Black doll in Los Angeles, and before Christmas, she was selling nationwide. The following year, Shindana gave the baby doll an Afro, challenging white beauty norms and making her the first toy with authentic Black hair. The popularity of Baby Nancy exposed a long-standing demand for ethnically correct Black dolls that the mainstream market had failed to deliver previously.

Says Curator Michelle Parnett-Dwyer, “Although Shindana Toys ceased operations in 1983, Baby Nancy still stands as a landmark doll that made commercial and cultural breakthroughs.”

About Sidewalk Chalk

Historians have every reason to believe that the earliest people played with chalk, and traces of Paleolithic cave art executed in chalk have been found throughout the world. Chalk’s use in playful pursuits relies on its physical properties. Chalk that was used on early boards was made of gypsum, the dihydrate form of calcium sulfate. Great masterpieces, clever doodles, informational expressions, educational lessons, and games like tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and four square all dance together on the tip of a piece of chalk, waiting to be freed by a child’s whim.

Says Bensch, “There are few limits to what kids can do with chalk. Every sidewalk square, patio, and driveway holds the potential for a work of art, a winning game of strategy and cleverness, or a demonstration of physical agility, poise, and balance.”

Jenga

Englishwoman Leslie Scott created Jenga based on wooden blocks from her childhood in Africa. The word jenga is the imperative form of kujenga, the Swahili verb “to build.” The game challenges players to remove one block at a time from a tower without knocking it down. With its catchy name and edge-of-your-seat gameplay, Jenga has inspired both young and old to enjoy the towering, toppling results for decades.

Curator Nicolas Ricketts says, “Fans say that much of Jenga’s success lies in its simplicity and ability to be played by almost anyone. It is one of the rare games that’s equally fun for two people or a bigger crowd. It’s perfect for a game party with a group or something more intimate, but either way, it’s always sure to make instant memories.”

About the National Toy Hall of Fame

The National Toy Hall of Fame at The Strong, established in 1998, recognizes toys that have inspired creative play and enjoyed popularity over a sustained period. Each year, the prestigious hall inducts new honorees and showcases both new and historic versions of classic toys beloved by generations. Anyone can nominate a toy to the National Toy Hall of Fame. Final selections are made on the advice of historians, educators, and other individuals who exemplify learning, creativity, and discovery through their lives and careers. Toys are celebrated year-round in a state-of-the-art exhibit at The Strong museum in Rochester, New York. For more information about the hall and to see the list of previous inductees, visit toyhalloffame.org.

Check back with News 8 WROC as Digital Reporter Dan Gross will have a full report on this story later today.

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