Angel Toy

In Fun
Handmade Angel Toy from 1907
Handmade Angel Toy from 1907

In 1921, my great-great-grandfather travelled from rural North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his family to escape the blatant racism, segregation, and poor economic conditions that plagued Black citizens in the southern United States. His parents had given up the small tract of land on which they were sharecroppers. My great-great-grandfather was allowed to keep an item of his choosing to carry with him on their trip. He chose a small handmade angel doll that his grandmother made for him in 1907. One might have expected him to prioritize something that could be utilized to invest in his financial stability in the future. Yet, for my great-great-grandfather the most valuable item in his possession was a 15-inch stuffed angel that his grandmother gifted him. It reminded him of the strength and compassion of the women in our family, whose love lit the darkest of realities. Since the outside world was so unkind, his grandmother overemphasized kindness at home. The plush angel reminded him of the human capacity for gentleness and of familial love. Lastly, the angel represented Christianity, which had become the popular religion of African Americans. As he and his family participated in the first wave of The Great Migration, he prioritized the sentimental value of this childhood toy rather than anything of monetary value. The angel has undergone some minor cosmetic changes, but it has maintained its significance and has become anheirloom within my family.

Place(s): North Carolina, Pennsylvania
Year: 1923

– Trey Greenough

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more