Brownies' Book

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Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882—1961)

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868—1963) American writer, sociologist, and political activist

Nella Larsen (1891—1964)

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From January 1920 through December 1921, W. E. B. Du Bois and Augustus Granville Dill published The Brownies’ Book, a young people's magazine dedicated especially to African American children from six to sixteen years of age. Although this was an independent publishing effort, the magazine functioned as the youth counterpart to the Crisis, NAACP's magazine. Novelist Jessie Redmon Fauset served as the associate editor and contributed regularly. (Other frequent contributors were Langston Hughes and Nella Larsen.) At a cost of fifteen cents a copy or one dollar and fifty cents per year, its circulation was approximately five thousand per month.

Among the objectives of The Brownies’ Book were “to make colored children realize that being ‘colored’ is a normal, beautiful thing” and “to make them familiar with the history and achievements of the Negro race” (Crisis, Oct. 1919). With only one exception, all of the drawings in the magazine were by black artists. Depicting black children from various classes and geographical regions, the magazine spoke powerfully to the social, psychological, spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic needs and sensibilities of a range of people. To a large degree, its publication marks the genesis of what is now called African American children's literature.

Violet Harris, “The Brownies’ Book: Challenge to the Selective Tradition in Children's Literature,” PhD diss., University of Georgia, 1986.Dianne Johnson, Telling Tales: The Pedagogy and Promise of African American Literature for Youth, 1990.

Dianne Johnson-Feelings

Subjects: Literature.

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