White Supremacy in Children's Literature: Characterizations of African Americans, 1830-1900

By Donnarae MacCann | Go to book overview

Chapter Nine

Conclusion

The “Lost Cause” Wins

Modern historians analyze the makeup of an era. Assigning blame for past actions is usually found to be difficult, if not impossible. By emphasizing the complexities, readers are moved in the direction of understanding rather than mere censure. But when we examine history in relation to the education of children, we face a new kind of problem. We are confronted with predetermined and premeditated actions on the part of adults. We cannot, then, so easily dismiss motivational factors. We cannot say that intentional behavior is forever hidden in a web of ambiguous possibilities. When adults introduce specific kinds of experience into the lives of youngsters, they usually do so with forethought, with a purpose that relates to the child’s alleged well-being. In American history, the white supremacy myth needs to be examined with this in mind.

The myth of white superiority was introduced into each successive generations social conditioning, and the very act of passing down white supremacist attitudes to children tells us much about the importance of this myth to the child-raisers. There was little reason for the European American child to doubt his or her racial superiority because the storybooks, periodicals, schools, churches, and government authorities were all sending the same signal. Racial bias reached White children through books, and also by way of the institutions that constantly impinged on their lives. The Black child, on the other hand, was treated in the publishing world as a legitimate target of derision. By making Black children the brunt of racist humor, the mainstream’s effort to discourage African American education

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White Supremacy in Children's Literature: Characterizations of African Americans, 1830-1900
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • A Note on Usage xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Notes xxxii
  • Part One - The Antebellum Years 1
  • Chapter One - Ambivalent Abolitionism 3
  • Chapter Two - Sociopolitical and Artistic Dimensions of Abolitionist Tales 25
  • Chapter Three - Personal and Institutional Dimensions 47
  • Part Two - The Postbellum Years 81
  • Chapter Four - Children’s Fiction 83
  • Notes 118
  • Chapter Five - The Social/Political Context 123
  • Chapter Six - Literary Lives 155
  • Notes 182
  • Chapter Seven - Postwar Institutions 185
  • Chapter Eight - Literary Methods and Conventions 211
  • Chapter Nine - Conclusion 233
  • Bibliography 243
  • Index 261
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