A gift shop in a performing arts center at Michigan State University has apologized and removed a display of dolls depicting black leaders hanging from a rack that looked like a tree.

“Regardless of the intent of the display, its impact cannot be ignored — people were hurt and offended,” university spokesperson Emily Gerkin Guerrant said in a statement last week about the display that had been up at The Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

“We sincerely apologize to our community members and have immediately removed the display,” she continued. The Wharton Center agreed “to provide employees and volunteers with racial bias training that focuses on the impact and understanding of intentional and unintentional racial bias.”


The figures, made out of felt, included former President Obama, former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaAmanda Gorman captures national interest after inauguration performance A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration Scorned and mistreated, Melania Trump deserved much better from the media MORE, musician Prince and others, USA Today reported.

“We have work to do, and MSU remains committed to creating a culture that is inclusive and safe for all faculty, staff, students and visitors. As we enter Black History Month, it’s important we not only recognize the many contributions of African Americans, but we remember history and confront all bias,” Gerkin Guerrant said. 

Krystal Rose Davis-Dunn, a black graduate student at Michigan State, attended a jazz concert at the center last week with a friend who wanted to look at the gift shop after the show. She noticed the dolls hanging from the tree as she entered, later sharing a photo on Facebook.

She said she continued walking around and noticed multiple other similar trees with “a lot more” black leaders. She said there were some white historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and Beethoven, USA Today reported. 

Davis-Dunn said the incident came after she was in meetings with leaders to discuss equality and diversity at the school.

"I went to the jazz concert to escape from all of that and unwind," she said, USA Today reported. 

Sharron Reed-Davis, president of the Black Student Alliance at Michigan state, told the outlet that “the Black Community is sick and tired of having to see something racist at every turn."  

"We are tired of having to put on a strong face 24/7, especially at the place we're supposed to call home," she added. "This university is toxic." 

The pushback comes after multiple other incidents that some community members have called racist. A black student found what appeared to be a noose made out of toilet paper in their dorm room in October, and a professor’s survey containing racist and offensive language was taken down the same month.