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African-American Children ’ s Literature

African-American Children ’ s Literature

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African-American Children ’ s Literature

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  1. African-American Children’s Literature Dr. Gwen Tarbox, Spring 2010

  2. African-American children’s literature developed in response to a specific set of historical realities, including: • Slavery • The Jim Crow Era • The Civil Rights Movement • Focus on Multiculturalism Historical Background

  3. In the early 17th century, a number of British corporations established plantation farms in Virginia. In order to entice European workers, the corporations set up indentured servant programs in which a young person would be transported to a plantation from England or the Netherlands, would work for 7 years, and then would be given his/her freedom. • Even with a rigorous indentured servant program, the corporations realized that they needed a larger labor force. Some attempts were made to enslave Native Americans, but they resisted. • Next, the corporations brought over a number of Africans as indentured servants. The first Africans to make landfall in the US arrived in 1611 as passengers on a Dutch sailing vessel. Colonial Beginnings

  4. By the 1620, British corporations began engaging in the transport of enslaved Africans to the colonies. There were two popular economic models for utilizing slave labor: • In the first, young males were transported to a plantation and worked until they died. Then, more young men were brought in their place. • In the second, both young men and young women were transported to a plantation to work. Future slaves were acquired by conveying slave status on the children of slaves. This system cost less and provided a more reliable supply of slaves. It was the system favored in the US. The Establishment of Slavery

  5. The Slave Trade: The Tight Packers

  6. The term “Middle Passage” refers to the movement of the slave ships from Africa to their destinations in South America, the Caribbean, and the American colonies. • Many slaves died during the sea voyages due to exposure, illness, and poor treatment. The Middle Passage

  7. Although slavery was not an official system in the colonies during the 17th century, British corporations and their representatives in the colonies encouraged colonial legislatures to pass laws that would enhance their ability to place children into slavery. • Most of the laws passed during the years 1619-1705 focused on slave women. Contrary to European or most African practices, laws were passed that traced a child’s lineage through his/her mother. Thus, by 1662 in the Virginia colony, a child born to a slave woman became a slave, regardless of the status of the father. Legislation Creates a Slave System

  8. Slave auctions were commonplace in the northern colonies, as well. • This image is from a slave auction that took place in New Amsterdam (New York) in 1643. The Slave System Spreads

  9. During the Revolutionary War period, a number of people advocated for the end of the slavery. In this letter, Abigail Adams discusses her anti-slavery views with her husband, John Adams, writing “[we] fight ourselves for what we are daily taking and plundering from those who have as good a right.” A Missed Chance

  10. A number of Slave Codes, passed between 1705 and 1830, restricted the actions of slaves to prevent insurrection. These codes included a ban on teaching slaves to read, allowing slaves to congregate, and on allowing slaves to marry each other. Slaves were labeled “real estate” and could be killed without penalty. The Slave Codes

  11. The abolition of slavery in Britain in 1807 inspired American abolitionists to work feverishly for the end of slavery. • One strategy they used was the publication of slave narratives designed to acquaint citizens with the realities of the slave system. Abolition

  12. During the first half of the 19th century, many Northern abolitionists may have organized against slavery, but more Northerners – especially business people – saw how Southern money, earned from the “free” labor of slaves – was financing the growing international presence of the US. They were hesitant to fight. • By 1861, though, sentiment on both sides of the “slavery question” led to a four year war. • In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. The Civil War

  13. During the short-lived Reconstruction period, Northerners came into the former Confederate states and tried to smooth the transition from a slave to a wage economy. • Schools to teach former slaves were established, and some African-Americans were elected to federal and state offices. Hiram Revels was the first elected African-American Senator in 1870. Reconstruction HIRAM REVELS, 1870

  14. Although laws were on the books to allow African-Americans equal treatment under the law, including the right to vote (after the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution), in reality underground organizations such as the KKK sprung up to thwart progress. • Between 1870 and 1930, over 3,000 African-American men, women and children were lynched in order to intimidate African-Americans in the South into a quasi-slave existence, including the separation of schools and public services. The Jim Crow Era

  15. Many African-Americans fled North in order to earn a fair wage and to afford their children a decent education. • Some African-Americans sent the wages they made in the North home to family in South. The Great Migration

  16. The sharecropping system paid poor field laborers a yearly sustenance wage. During the year, they would charge items at a store. When the crop came in, anything they owed would be taken out of their wages. Most people ended up the year owing their employer, thus they were stuck on the land. Sharecropping

  17. As African-Americans strained under the unequal and injust post-Civil War climate, some of their leaders argued that they should be patient, slowly develop a middle class, and eventually convince the majority culture that they “deserved “ rights. • The major proponent for assimiliation was Booker T. Washington Strategies: Assimiliation

  18. Other African-Americans argued that they already deserved the same rights as any other US citizen, and they took more aggressive means of agitating for these rights, including the founding of the NAACP, whose founder was W.E.B. DuBois, an intellectual opponent of Washington. Strategies: Agitation

  19. By the 1910s, another group of African-American thinkers, discouraged by lynching and the slow progress towards equality, proposed immigrating back to Africa, where they could start a new country. Liberia had been set up in the 1800s under this premise. This group’s leader was Marcus Garvey. Strategies: Immigration Back to Africa

  20. While most African-Americans made slow progress in their personal struggle for equality, others took advantage of what education they could get and began building up a protest movement within the black churches. Leaders included Martin Luther King Jr and Rosa Parks. The Civil Rights Movement

  21. Although the Civil Rights movement was a violent time in our nation’s history, it resulted in vast societal change, beginning with the passage of the New Society legislation in the 1960s. By the 1970s, multiculturalism was introduced into the schools and continues to impact education. Multiculturalism

  22. Early literary efforts • Phillis Wheatley’s poetry • Slave narratives • Spiritual autobiographies • Post Civil-War efforts • Social Uplift novels • Dialect vs. so-called Standard English • Issues of passing and the color line African-American Literature

  23. Prior to the 1930s, African-American authors had to prove their authenticity as writers, had to please Caucasian publishers, and had to assume a primarily Caucasian audience. • However, by the 1920s, many African-Americans had migrated to Harlem. • Intellectuals such as DuBois, Jessie Fauset, Alain Locke, and Langston Hughes advocated for a renaissance in African-American culture. They were able to publish their own work, often free from editing by mainstream publishing houses. Thus was born The Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance

  24. In addition to the poets, playwrights, and novelists who wrote during the Harlem Renaissance, newspaper and magazine writers also flourished, contributing stories and news to such periodicals as The Crisis, edited by DuBois and Fauset. Vast Literary Output

  25. Depictions of African-American children occurred in many Caucasian publications during the 19th and 20th century. Almost all of these depictions relied on stereotypes and were demeaning. But What About Children’s Literature?

  26. By the 1870s, a number of African-American women began writing fiction that either presented African-American children in a positive light or created “race neutral” portrayals of children. • These pioners included Amelia E. Johnson and Pauline Hopkins. • Sunday School newspapers were another popular early venue for African-American children’s literature. • During the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta B. Baker, who was a librarian in the New York Public Library system, set up a special reading room devoted to texts that portrayed African-American children in a positive light. • In 1919, Jessie Fauset published The Brownies Book, a year long magazine that featured African-American children’s literature. Pioneers of African-American Children’s Lit

  27. One of the key figures in the Harlem Renaissance was Arna Bontemps, who wrote children’s books at the suggestion of Augusta Baker. These included the extremely popular Popo and Fifina, which he wrote along with poet Langston Hughes. Arna Bontemps

  28. Founded in 1965, the Council on Interracial Books for Children not only promoted positive portrayals of children of all backgrounds, they also gave out prizes and fellowships to young authors. Winners of their prizes included Virginia Hamilton, Walter Dean Myers, and Mildred Taylor • The CIBC also created The Bulletin of Interracial Books for Children, which advocated for texts that avoid sexism and racism. • In the 1970s, the CIBC took on the classic To Kill A Mockingbird, noting that it presented African-Americans in a stereotypical way and made “saviors” out of Caucasians. This sort of careful analysis influenced subsequent publishers of children’s lit. to avoid stereotyping. Council on Interracial Books for Children

  29. Established in 1970 by the American Library Association to honor the contributions of Coretta Scott King, the Coretta Scott King Book Award is given annually to a text that “promotes understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream.” The Coretta Scott King Book Award

  30. Virginia Hamilton (1936-2002) • Wrote over 30 children’s and adolescent literature novels • Focused on universal coming of age issues • Wrote mysteries, science fiction, as well as realistic fiction • Won a MacArthur Genius Grant; several Coretta Scott King Book Awards, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Lifetime Achievement Award Key Contemporary Authors

  31. Walter Dean Myers (1937-) • The most prolific and award-winning writer of children’s and adolescent literature in the contemporary era • Focalizes his texts through typically bright, but troubled young men and women • Writes in every format, from the short story to the screenplay to the novel Key Contemporary Authors

  32. Jacqueline Woodson (1964-) • As a member of the “younger” generation of African-American children’s writers, Woodson writes primarily about contemporary issues involving AIDs, gender identity, and homelessness. • Her books have won multiple awards, including the Coretta Scott King Book Award. In 2002, she was a nominee for the National Book Award. Key Contemporary Authors

  33. Sharon Flake (1963-) • A contemporary of Woodson, Flake also deals with contemporary teenage issues, including homelessness and street violence. • Flake writes from the viewpoint of both male and female protagonists; in fact, her recent text, Bang!, has been praised for its realistic depiction of issues facing African-American fathers and sons. Key Contemporary Authors

  34. Christopher Paul Curtis (1963-) • A native of Flint, Michigan (yeah!), Curtis sets his novels in his hometown or surrounding communities. A winner of the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the Newbury Award, and many others, Curtis is known for injecting humor and gritty realism into his narratives. Key Contemporary Authors

  35. Mildred Taylor (1943-) • Along with Walter Dean Myers and Virginia Hamilton, Mildred Taylor was a pioneer in contemporary African-American children’s literature. • Her Logan Chronicles are among the first books that include clear, direct discussions about America’s racist past, as well as realistic and complex depictions of African-American characters and lives. Key Contemporary Authors

  36. The Logan Chronicles

  37. The Logan Chronicles

  38. Early Readers