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Discussion » Statements » Rosie's Corner » I'm an old lady today and not the same person I used to be. As a little girl there was a book titled "Little Black Sambo". What else?

I'm an old lady today and not the same person I used to be. As a little girl there was a book titled "Little Black Sambo". What else?

There were minstrel shows and no one thought twice about it. I didn't know years later I'd be upset retroactively about how African Americans were treated. I didn't know about the underground railway. I heard about Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves but I didn't know  that was why he was assassinated. i didn't know any better when I was a little girl. I didn't know a lot about a lot. I grew up and changed a lot.  But growing up and changing a lot doesn't always affect everyone in the same way. I wonder why that is?  Do you know why that is?

Posted - February 11


  • 1642

    We all develop in our ways as individuals because we are influenced by so many complex external factors combined with our own personalities, educational abilities, interests, tastes etc.

    I recall similar books etc.

    A very popular 1960s British TV show (I don't know if BBC or ITV) was The Black & White Minstrels - all good singers, yes, but the supposedly-coloured members of the troupe were the stereotyped white artistes blacked-up. 

    I remember our Dad had a children's compendium dating from the 1930s, whose fictional stories included some depicting some Colonial type or other in some part of Africa. As far as I recall, these didn't actively set out to demean the Africans but did rather patronise them as jolly useful chaps for helping move the English characters' baggage etc.

    The same book also contained those appalling children-"improving" Struwwelpeter poems from 19C Germany, and their unpleasantly graphical illustrations. I recall one had its central character having his fingers snipped off by huge scissors wielded by some sort of (supernatural?) tailor figure; but I can't remember the story's topic and supposed moral. 

    Perhaps worse, when I was about 6 some friend of my parents, a woman I never knew as she had emigrated to Tasmania, sent me as Christmas a children's story-book based on life in an imaginary Tasmanian native family. This was in the 1950s. It was written no doubt by a European-descendant author, from the view of its own children, whom it called 'picaninnies'. It was not actually unkind, certainly not intentionally, to the aborigines, though rather twee in that sentimentally patronising way once thought acceptable; and it was published years before I learnt the island's original Dutch settlers had more or less wiped the residents out. I'd forgotten it until my sisters found it when clearing our late parents' home - they asked me if I wanted it. Not ruddy likely! We buried it in a box-full of books for donating to a charity-shop. I rather doubt English shop volunteers in 2001 would have dared put a 1950s Tasmanian book illustrated with drawings of nude aboriginal children, in its window!   

      February 11, 2019 4:52 PM MST

  • 66977
    Thank you for your very  thoughtful reply  Durdle! You know precisely what I mean because you lived through it too. We both  arrived at a realization which put a different light entirely on our early years. What puzzles me is why and how so many have never grown up out of it and moved on. They are solidly stuck where they always were and have no clue how antiquated and outdated their views are . More's the pity! I do appreciate your giving me examples of how things used to be for thee.  Thank you and Happy Tuesday  m'dear! :)
      February 12, 2019 2:29 AM MST

  • 37315
    Black people had it bad.   So did brown people.  So did Asians.   So did Latinos.

    So did anyone who had little money.

      February 12, 2019 2:44 AM MST

  • 1642
    It seems strange now, half a century on, that almost certainly most of the publishers of such literature genuinely saw nothing wrong.

    They had become imbued with the European trait of several centuries' of colonising other lands, but seeing the natives (in its TRUE sense!)* as somehow unsophisticated, uneducated, backward and even worse, not Christian.

    Where not actually harming or killing them, the more kindly settlers genuinely thought they could bring the real discovers of these lands into the 17th, 18th, 19th even 20th Centuries by European standards. Sometime they even thought it a God-given duty!

    Some rulers were benign and did bring material and cultural benefits to these lands; but others were not, and treated the residents with contempt even very recently. Or if not contempt, patronising ideas like the "noble savage" label and in our own times, twee romanticising of pretty bits of aboriginal cultures.

    Underlying it all is an unpleasant aspect of human behaviour generally: a herd instinct spilling over into mutual mistrust and incomprehension between herds or anyone somehow "different", be it in race, religion, sexuality, culture or even individual things like foods and leisure pursuits.

    Many of us can control or have purged ourselves of these negative notions, but sadly, far too many still cling to them; sometimes out of fear of being cast out of their own herds.

    *"Native" is not some antiquated term of perjoration. It simply cites place of birth. We are all natives of one country or another: England in my case, for example - and I admit my country did plenty of colonising in its day.
      February 12, 2019 7:43 AM MST