Representations of African Americans
The impact of children’s literature on development is significant. This is because children’s stories are often used by children to create an imaginary world as well as notions of the real world. Growth in immigration, rising birth rates among minorities and other factors have change elementary and secondary school environments from a homogenous to a diverse one. This necessitates a rethinking of language arts curricula and standard texts of the past. As Pirofski argues; “The new classroom necessitates literature that is multicultural, inclusive, and gender bias free” (1). Despite most educators advocating such an approach, such children’s literature is just not available.
In her book Shadow and Substance, author Rudine Sims uses the term culturally conscious in the evaluation of African American children’s books for cultural authenticity. As Sims argues; “Culturally conscious literature is that in which the author is sensitive to aspects of African American culture and consciously seeks to depict a fictional Afro-American life experience” (49). In this work the author argues that authenticity includes not only accuracy and validity of the text but also those of the illustrations.
The representation of African Americans in children’s literature is directly related to the relation of shifting markets, organizational structures and legal factors in society, impacted by the dialectic of black-white struggle to the changing images of blacks. In Culture and Conflict, authors Pescosolido, Grauerholz, and Milkie investigate the images of blacks in U.S. children’s literature from 1937 to 1993, trying to expose “the power struggles, reflected in racial conflict in the larger society as they relate to patterns of symbolic representation” (444). The authors refer to symbolic annihilation via an absence of black characters, stereotyping, and trivialization. Over this ...