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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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3 Taking Pride in Being Black: Strategies of Composing an African-American Children’s Magazine


3.1 Combining Forces: The Brownies’ Book as Collective Venture Fiction is of great value to any people as a preserver of manners and customs – religious, political and social. It is a record of growth and development from generation to generation. No one will do this for us; we must ourselves develop the men and women who will faithfully portray the inmost thoughts and feelings of the Negro with all the fire and romance which lie dormant in our history, and, as yet, unrecognized by writers of the Anglo-Saxon race.195 To publish a magazine for black children had always been Du Bois’ dream, and even though he had to give up on his project after only two years, he singled it out as one of the “two efforts”196 which he had made in the early twentieth century towards which he looked back “with infinite satisfaction.”197 That he was proud of his publication for black children also becomes apparent in a letter which he wrote to Harvard University regarding the Thirtieth Anniversary Report of the class of 1890. There, he mentions specifically that he wants The Brownies’ Book to be included in his list of publications.198 Without doubt, the periodical has to be considered Du Bois’ brainchild, and the ideas and underlying philosophies sprang mostly from his mind. The fact that he established a publishing house especially for 195 Pauline E. Hopkins, preface, Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, 1900, by Pauline E. Hopkins (Oxford:...

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