Black, black, beautiful black: the educational use of African American children’s literature in New York City, 1965-1979
This thesis examines Black pride, Black history and Black memory in a renaissance of Black-authored US children’s books from 1965 to 1979. African American children’s books had a long history of furthering a Black educational philosophy and this project demonstrates how this was reshaped in the era of Black Power. African American authored children’s books became vital weapons in the arsenal of Black liberation during the African American community control movement in New York as parents, educators and activists called for more local control over children’s education and the literature available in schools. African American authors and illustrators visited centres of Black Power educational activism to provide Black children with culturally relevant literary works as they sought to engage children in the wider political issues of being Black in America. Through literary examination of children’s books combined with archival work into the groups, schools and individuals involved, this project uncovers the voices of children by working across historical, literary, social and political methodologies. The intersection between Black children’s books and activism within New York – Black Power and African American community activists – is investigated to reveal the untold story of Black children during this period of educational upheaval and Black Power and centre them within the wider story. It was not just the content of African American children’s books but how they were used in education. A case study of New York City helps to underscore how African American children’s literature helped bring different groups together in the name of a Black educational philosophy. From storytelling sessions on the streets of New York City to teacher training sessions at Columbia University, African American children’s books became a crucial vehicle in promoting a Black educational philosophy and brought authors, educators, children, and parents together. Through children’s literature, children and authors brought topics such as ‘Black is Beautiful’, the power of communities and Black Power into mainstream education.