Biographical/historical: From the 1946 Books about Negro Life for Children:
"It is the purpose of this list to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well-rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world. Language, theme, and illustration have been scrutinized with this aim in mind, and choices were made accordingly.
"When considering the factor of language, the most important point is to eliminate books which describe Negroes in terms of derision. In Hildegarde Swift's stirring and inspiring Railroad to Freedom, epithets are used, but an excellent explanation is given at the end of the book. Another language consideration is the use of heavy dialect. It is too difficult for the child to read and understand, and since often it is not authentic, but has been created by the authors themselves, it is misleading. The use of regional vernacular is acceptable, but dialect should be used with great care.
"The next point to consider is the theme of the book. Is the Negro character a clown and a buffoon whose only object in life is to serve his master faithfully and without question, or is he a person who is making some worth-while contribution to the progress of society? There are Negro doctors, lawyers, judges, soldiers, sailors, teachers; Negros, in fact, are found in every walk of life. The complete picture of the Negro's part in American life should be represented and not just the nostalgic old South with its plantations and loyal servants. Charlemae Rollins has written a pamphlet, We Build Together, which is an important contribution to this subject. On page 10 she says, "Whether the books are written for the Negro child or for other children, if they are about him, the objective is the same. They must be books which interpret life in all its infinite variations, books which help young people to live together."
"The third factor is illustration. The depiction of the Negro is exceptionally important in books for children. An artist can portray a Negro child -- black skin, crinkly hair, and short nose -- and make him attractive or make him stereotype and caricature. A Negro child who sees pictures which ridicule his race may be deeply hurt, feel defeated, or become resentful and rebellious. The white child who sees the stereotyped presentation of the Negro begins to feel superior (and to accept this distorted picture or "type"). Erick Berry, the Haders, Armstrong Sperry, Marguerite De Angeli, and a few others have succeeded where Elvira Garner, Inez Hogan, Alice Caddy, and some others have failed. Photographic illustrations, as found in The Flop-Eared Hound, Tobe, and My Dog Rinty, can be exceptionally successful.
"The age grouping of the books has been roughly devised and should not be interpreted too literally.
"Helen Bannerman's Little Black Sambo has been included because there is a lack of material for the pre-school and primary age groups. It is a book which, being out of copyright, has been mutilated in cheap editions and has thus been misinterpreted. The original small Stokes edition has no dialect and no condescension, and Little Black Sambo is clearly the hero. Unfortunately, there is an emotional attitude connected with the name Black Sambo because the words are now often used in derision and not as a term of affection. The use of the story as a subject for dramatic presentation and puppet shows has also led to further misinterpretation. It is a jungle story and should never be presented as a picture of Negro life, nor should it be the only book of Negro or jungle life given to a child.
"Negro authors have not been included, except in the poetry section, unless the subject of their books is the Negro. Consequently, Bontemp's Fast Sooner Hound and Cullen's My Lives and How I Lost Them have been omitted even though they are excellent examples of the work of Negro writers in universal fields."
Content: For the titles listed in the Bibliographies, please see the collection The Black Experience in Children's Books: Selections from Augusta Baker's Bibliographies.