ROCHESTER, New York—It’s official! The groundbreaking doll Baby Nancy, imaginative and classic sidewalk chalk, and family favorite game Jenga have been inducted today into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The honorees, unveiled during a special ceremony at The Strong National Museum of Play, were chosen from a field of 12 finalists that also included bingo, Breyer Horses, Lite-Brite, Masters of the Universe, My Little Pony, Risk, Sorry!, Tamagotchi, and 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 Chief Curator Christopher 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.”
About 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
About The Strong
The Strong is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play. It is one of the largest history museums in the United States and one of the leading museums serving families. The Strong houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play and is home to the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play. Together, these enable a multifaceted array of research, exhibition, and other interpretive and educational activities that serve a diverse audience of adults, families, children, students, teachers, scholars, collectors, and others around the globe.