Where did the baby name Shindana come from in 1970?

Portion of a Shindana doll advertisement (for Tamu specifically) in Ebony magazine (November, 1971).
Portion of a 1971 Shindana advert

The intriguing name Shindana appeared in the U.S. baby name data for a total of three years:

  • 1975: unlisted
  • 1974: 6 baby girls named Shindana
  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 6 baby girls named Shindana
  • 1970: 5 baby girls named Shindana [debut] – all 5 in California
  • 1969: unlisted
  • 1968: unlisted

Where did it come from?

Shindana dolls, which were manufactured by Shindana Toys.

Shindana Toys was founded in 1968 as a division of Operation Bootstrap, located in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Operation Bootstrap was a job training center formed in the wake of the Watts riots (mid-August, 1965).

Black-owned and Black-operated, Shindana Toys was one of the first companies to make black dolls with ethnically correct features. The name of the company means “compete” in Swahili.

Though their very first doll was called Baby Nancy (introduced in 1968), many of their other dolls — such as Malaika (1969), Talking Tamu (1970), and Baby Zuri (1972) — had Swahili names. These Swahili names were “defined on the doll’s boxes or accompanying literature.” Malaika means “angel,” Tamu means “sweet,” and Zuri means “beautiful.”

Here’s the U.S. usage of each of these names (for baby girls) during the late ’60s and early ’70s:


[It’s curious to me that each of these names debuted a year before the corresponding dolls were introduced. Haven’t been able to figure that one out yet…]

Shindana Toys ended up producing over 30 black dolls (along with other types of toys and games). The company reached peak productivity in the mid-1970s, but slowed down after that, and finally ceased operations in 1983. Today, Shindana dolls are sought-after collectibles.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Shindana?

Portion of a Shindana doll advertisement (for Baby Nancy specifically) in Ebony magazine (1971).
Of course I had to throw in a pic of Baby Nancy. :)

P.S. If you know of any of the other Swahili names used for Shindana dolls, please comment! I couldn’t find a definitive list online.


P.S. “Malaika” was also a song made famous by Miriam Makeba.

2 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Shindana come from in 1970?

  1. I love the name, so many ways to spell it as well if one were of a mind to. I’m always glad to see, ah, ‘ethnically correct’ dolls. When a doll has caucasian features but brown skin and silky straight hair, I think it’s an injustice to kids.
    Plus how fun for all races to have dolls of other ethnicities! I have my mom’s dolls of the world collection from when she was a girl. They had to have been custom done, not a manufacturing large scale. There are so many intricate details.
    And how wonderful as well to have culturally correct names.

    You know how much I love unique names. It would be a bit odd to have a doll of India have the name Sally or Brittany.

    I wish something good like this could come from all the insanity out there right now.

  2. I’ve got my fingers crossed that a lot of good will come from the stuff going on right now. Lots more tolerance, lots more integrity, etc.

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