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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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4 Countering White Supremacist Attitudes: The Construction of New Images


4.1 Racial Discourse in Literature for Children She does not know Her beauty, She thinks her brown body Has no glory. If she could dance Under palm trees And see her image in the river She would know. But there are no palm trees On the street, And dish water gives back no images.416 Images are crucial to the development of a self-concept, but, as mentioned earlier, virtually the entire reading material which was available when Du Bois published The Brownies’ Book was designed for the use of white boys and girls. As a consequence, black children hardly ever appeared in books for the young, and if they were included, they had to look at distorted pictures which were constructed by the white members of society who tried to enforce their cultural supremacy upon African-Americans. 417 Ethnocentric perspectives, the tendency to view alien 416 Waring Cuney, “No Images,” Golden Slippers: An Anthology of Negro Poetry for Young Readers, comp. Arna Bontemps (1941; New York: Harper, 1982, print) 28. 417 In a few cases, Blacks managed to publish books for children even before Du Bois launched his periodical; not all of them necessarily also included black characters, though (See Footnote 57). For the time of the publication of The Brownies’ Book, there is no specific data available on the quantity of books with black characters. The first research project which dealt with this question was conducted by Nancy Larrick in 1965. She found out that of the 5, 206 children’s books...

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