Lies My Bookshelf Told Me: Slavery in Children’s Literature

Jenifer Frank’s article in Teaching Tolerance discusses the work of Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor in University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, who has examined and compiled a database of 170 children’s books about slavery.

“Many children’s books about slavery, [Thomas] argues, are less about teaching children our nation’s history and more about ‘absolving the nation for what actually happened.’ All too often, stories about slavery are framed within a false narrative of continuous racial progress and the enduring American Dream. Reaching for a happy ending, they leave the truth of slavery behind.”

Thomas adds ” ‘[E]ducators interested in using literature to teach children about slavery must be ready to consider ‘the psychological dimensions of enslavement as well as the collective trauma of black readers.’ ”

The article includes titles for books at the elementary, middle, and high school level.

To read the article, click here.

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