Florence K Upton lived in USA until she was 14 years old when she settled in England with her family. As a child she had a minstrel doll and she ".. knew he was ugly!". The doll was treated roughly by the Upton children. Yet it was to be her inspiration when in 1895 she produced a series of illustrations to accompany a poem-story her mother, Bertha Upton, had written.
"Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg" was the first of 12 books the Uptons would publish. They were immediately popular in England and Europe and the name (eventually shortened to 'golliwog') became an iconic figure, with the release of golliwog dolls and brand logos and other books adopting the character.
The whole of the text and all the book images of Two Dutch Dolls and a Golliwogg are online at the Gutenburg project. I read it all and looked closely at the pictures and I'm inclined to view the book and the illustrations as a whole in an innocent light. It's a pinocchioesque story where caricatures are the norm and it tends towards inclusivity of differences rather than as any vehicle for propagating a racist mentality in my opinion. One could take a perverse view and see other tropes of racism and stereotyping excluding any alleged (intentional or otherwise) slurring against dark skinned people.
But I won't go into any full blown exegesis - I simply like the illustrations - however, I acknowledge that the character and the name have been manipulated and established in many arenas as racist icons. I imagine that feeling is much stronger in the States. There seems to be a stalemate of sorts as to the rightful place deserved for the golliwog character. Because it is an image, there is possibly a stronger evocation of a negative assessment versus, for instance, archaic use of the n-word in literature.
But I don't see any contradiction in having an innocent appreciation for the appearance in history of the golliwog character whilst at the same time detesting the development of the emblem with racist themes.
- Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris University.
- A few larger Two Dutch Dolls illustrations with a front cover sans 'Golliwogg' in the title.
- Golliwogsdotcom have a bunch of book illustrations and fan ephemera - obviously representing one pole on the spectrum of opinion.
- A few illustrations from Golliwogg's Bicycle Tour.
- Golliwogg in wikipedia.
- A great metafilter post on minstrels.