Shindana Toys, a Division of Operation Bootstrap, was founded in 1968 in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts, California riots.
"Shindana Toys, a division of Operation Bootstrap, Inc., stands alone as the largest black-owned and operated toy company in the world. It had its genesis in the rubble of the 1965 Watts revolt and it emerged in 1968 with a will to compete in the face of discouraging odds. A practical recognition of this spirit is reflected in the selection of the name “Shindana” – it means competitor in Swahili.
"Shindana was founded by Lou Smith and Robert Hall without government subsidy or aid. Substantial working capital, technical assistance and equipment were provided initially by Mattel, Inc., with no strings attached, as an expression of that company’s commitment to its social responsibility in the Los Angeles community.
The company's goal was to help rebuild the community and provide jobs for community residents. Their moto, Learn, baby! Learn! was in stark opposition to "Burn, baby! Burn!" which was chanted by the 1965 rioters as they burned buildings in their own community during a six-day protest against police brutality.
Shindana Toys was one of the many co-ops formed under the Division of Operation Bootstrap. Their doll factory, located in Watts from 1968 through 1983, became a forerunner in the manufacture of ethnically correct dolls for Black children. While most Shindana dolls were Black, their catalog of dolls includes a few that represent other ethnicities. Dolls were designed in Los Angeles by Edward "Batiste" Williams.
The company marked a line of 32 Black dolls and 6 Black-oriented games. Mr. Lou Smith is to be remembered, for his vision helped make the difference between success and failure. He never wavered from Shindana’s objectives of providing jobs with pride in the ghetto and showing people that they can help themselves, and that in the process they can learn to love those who may be different from themselves. He believed that “the only plan is the commitment.” Today the Shindana dolls are collector items.