African American children’s literature has often dealt with difficult topics, which have often resulted in controversies. For example, Alice Childress’s A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, which deals with heroin addiction, was the subject of a controversy over its removal from school libraries. The controversy stemmed from the First Amendment rights of schoolchildren to read books that reflect their cultures and experiences.
While there is no clear definition of African American children’s literature, it is generally understood as a category of literature containing stories about African Americans or Black people. It can also be understood as a broader genre that encompasses both fictional stories and nonfictional narratives. It can also be considered a form of children’s literature that can stand alone or be placed alongside more traditional works.
African American children’s literature has traditionally focused on stories about reading. However, in addition to fictional stories, African American children have often written their own work. For example, the early African American poet Phillis Wheatley was an enslaved child who wrote poetry in her teens. In addition, the African Free School in New York City was set up by the New York Manumission Society, which eventually absorbed the school into the city’s public school system. The school’s schoolwork has been preserved by the New York Historical Society.
Reflection of racism in authors
Reflection of racism is becoming increasingly prevalent in children’s literature, especially in the US. Books such as Stamped from the Beginning by Sonja Cherry-Paul, Jason Reynolds, and Rachelle Baker have dealt with race relations and the history of slavery and racism, and aim to give young readers a clear understanding of the subject.
However, the prevalence of racism in children’s literature has been widely documented. Scholars such as Philip Nel and Donnarae MacCann have documented the widespread use of anti-Black language in the work of famous authors and classic literary texts. Despite these obstacles, African American children’s literature has attempted to counteract racist portrayals by centering Black perspectives.
Dealing with cultural issues
Many African American children’s books deal with difficult cultural issues, and some of them have generated controversy. For example, Alice Childress’s book A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich (published in 1971) dealt with african american children’s books issues of poverty and heroin addiction. It was one of several books named in the 1982 Supreme Court case Board of Education v. Pico. Its content was controversial and the issue was the First Amendment rights of schoolchildren.
Despite the barriers to African American children’s literature, many educators and parents have long regarded this literature as important. One essay, “Negro Literature for Negro Pupils,” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, argues that this literature focuses on the African American perspective and counters stereotypes about African Americans.
Representation of Black characters
The representation of Black characters in children’s books has been a longstanding topic of discussion. While many children’s books feature African American characters, there are few that portray black people in a positive light. Most books about African Americans feature caricatures or servile characters, and they typically carry condescending or paternalistic messages. A notable exception to this trend is Jane Andrews’ “Seven Little Sisters,” a beloved book from the 1960s. It depicts children of different races, including a Black baby.
While the representation of black characters in children’s books has increased since 2012, black males remain underrepresented as authors and characters in children’s bestsellers. Publishers should be aware of this and take action to rectify the problem.