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«The Brownies’ Book»: Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children


Christina Schäffer

‘The Brownies’ Book:’ Inspiring Racial Pride in African-American Children offers a descriptive analysis and interpretation of America’s first magazine for young African-Americans. Published by W.E.B. Du Bois in cooperation with Jessie Fauset and Augustus Granville Dill, the monthly hoped to foster a new African-American identity by (re)connecting «the children of the sun» with Africa, by turning them into proud Americans, and by educating them to be global citizens. The editors turned the crow into a positive symbol of blackness and provided photographs which proved that «black is beautiful» to increase the self-esteem of black youths. The magazine was a harbinger of the Harlem Renaissance and served as a creative outlet for many African-American writers and artists, among them many women.


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1 Introduction


To Children, who with eager look Scanned vainly library shelf and nook, For History or Song or Story That Told of Colored Peoples’ glory – We dedicate The Brownies’ Book.1 Among W.E.B. Du Bois’ numerous projects which he launched at the beginning of the twentieth century to inspire a new positive self-image as well as pride in African-Americans for their African heritage also ranks a monthly periodical for children entitled The Brownies’ Book. This magazine, which was brought out in cooperation with Jessie Redmon Fauset and Augustus Granville Dill from January 1920 to December 1921, was dedicated to young African-Americans, “the children of the Sun,” as Du Bois called them.2 The creation of The Brownies’ Book was a pioneering event in African-American literature in general and, more specifically, in the field of African-American children’s literature because it was the first periodical composed and published by African-Americans for black children who, until then, had been looking in vain for material which included an African- American perspective and “told of Colored Peoples’ glory” (TBB Jan. 1920: 32).3 The fact that The Brownies’ Book was a harbinger of the Harlem Renaissance, paving the way for Alain Locke’s New Negro philosophy, further adds to its significance. Before this magazine was released, African-American children could only see themselves “through the eyes of others” – to use Du Bois’ famous phrase from The Souls of Black Folk – if they were depicted at all.4 Virtually the entire reading material for the young, ranging from children’s books, through children’s...

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