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Inside JET

Five Things About Samantha Knowles

By// John Taylor

Documentary Filmmaker Samantha Knowles began work on her senior honors thesis a tad earlier than most; she was 8 years old. “One of my White playmates came over,” she recalls. “And I pulled out my dolls, several of which were brown. She asked, ‘Why do you have Black dolls?’” Even today, at age 22, Knowles clearly remembers: “I couldn’t really answer the question.”

It’s a query that haunted the Warwick, NY native throughout her childhood— even following her all the way through to her film studies at Dartmouth College, where Knowles decided to commit the inquiry to celluloid. The result, Why Do You Have Black Dolls?, was lovingly received, even appearing in the 15th annual Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival in October. It’s also helped Knowles. Through her quest, she’s finally able to answer her childhood friend’s question about the importance of Black dolls. When asked today, Knowles proudly responds, “Because we need
to remind ourselves that we’re beautiful.”

TO READ MORE ABOUT SAMANTHA KNOWLES, PICK UP THE NEW ISSUE OF JET MAGAZINE, ON SALE TODAY.