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October 5, 2020

Work Life in a 1970’s Black Owned Doll Factory

Operation Bootstrap (OB) was formed in 1965 by two African American gentleman in the aftermath of the Watts, California riots, which began on August 11, 1965, and ended August 15, 1965. In an attempt to rebuild the community, provide job training, and jobs for community residents, Louis Smith and Robert Hall are said to have organized OB with a $1,000 loan from an AA businessman.

As a result of Smith and Hall’s dedication, Shindana Toys, a Division of Operation Bootstrap, opened its doors in 1968. Local residents were employed in the Shindana doll factory, thus achieving OB’s goal to provide jobs for poor African Americans and improve the economy in their community.

From 1968 through 1983, Shindana Toys designed and manufactured dolls that looked like real black people. Their motto was: Dolls Made by a Dream. Shindana, which means competitor in Swahili, trained and employed doll makers and became the nation’s largest manufacturer of black dolls and games.


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