A Conversation for 'Little Black Sambo' - A Controversial Book

Little Black Sambo

Post 1

Lanzababy - Guide Editor

A very smooth and balanced entry Icy - polished superbly! Very glad to see it on the FP. Excellent work as ever. smiley - smiley


Little Black Sambo

Post 2

The Great Gildersleeve

You'll have to forgive me as it is maybe 45 years since I last read this book so my memory may not what it should be but if it wasn't for the title and the name given to the lead character and possibly the style of illustration(probably normal for the time the book was published)the actual story itself is quite innocent. I do remember it with some affection.

It would need some alteration these days but it would be interesting if this book could be republished today if some of this was changed but then we get into the topic of whether we should censor and change things or accept what has happened in the past but learn from the past.

Many so called classic books and poems would probably be unacceptable if written today. And the same will happen to works we read now, in the future.

There is a lot about this book on the internet which I looked at some years ago but this is a very balanced and well written article.


Little Black Sambo

Post 3

Dmitri Gheorgheni - Not Banned in China

Good topic, well presented.

I just reread this story on Gutenberg after 50 years. Thanks.smiley - smiley

You're right: The story is not racist. But the black-and-white illustrations are easily perceived as racist.

They portray people in a certain way, exaggerating certain characteristics. You can be sure that if there were people who felt uncomfortable with this, they saw it, too.

I remember my companion coming home in Germany one day in a state of outrage. She held up a box of chocolate milk with a drawing of a grass-skirted African on it. He had a bone in his nose.

She was worried that one of our African friends might see this.

Feelings about this book ran high on the US side of the water. It even ruined a restaurant chain:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambo's


Little Black Sambo

Post 4

Xanatic

I know I read this book as a child. I think I saw some dolls of Sambo in an Irish store a few years back as well. Or they may have been those gollywog dolls.


Little Black Sambo

Post 5

Malabarista - now with added pony

My sister always quite enjoyed her version of the book - which had illustrations actually set in India. The names wer changed to Little Babaji, Mamaji, and Papaji.smiley - ok


Little Black Sambo

Post 6

Xanatic

I hope that version also had the tiger butter being handled in a proper sanitary manner.


Little Black Sambo

Post 7

Malabarista - now with added pony

Nope smiley - evilgrin But then we were farm kids and drank our milk unpasteurised, too.


Little Black Sambo

Post 8

The Great Gildersleeve

Well it shows with determination, it can be reworked. As it is, it is a simple little story and if anyone comes out of it looking clever/smart it is the lead character. I don't remember ever throwing the book out and we haven't moved, I wonder where it went?


Little Black Sambo

Post 9

Cheerful Dragon

Having just read the version on Gutenberg (published in Ohio), I can understand African-Americans getting upset about it. The story itself is harmless and shows a child getting the better of some wild animals. The illustrations are another matter. Whoever drew them knew nothing about India and drew Sambo's family as sterotype negroes.

I agree the story could be reworked by changing names, dropping 'black' from the title and setting it more squarely in India. I lke Babaji, Mamaji and Papaji. They sound Indian and, afaik, have never been used as derogatory words. (I remember 'black' people being called Sambo almost as an insult when I was a kid, although I don't remember the book.)


Little Black Sambo

Post 10

Cheerful Dragon

For anybody who's interested, The Story of Little Babaji is available 'from all good bookshops' and is by Helen Bannerman and Fred Marcellino (F. M. changed the names and did new illustrations, I guess).


Little Black Sambo

Post 11

Moonhogg - Captain Coffee Break

I remember this book from when I was a child. I loved it. I didn't see anything wrong - I just saw a little boy, and some nasty tigers.

Perhaps it could be "modernised" - views change, as do tolerances. The basic story is fine, but the world has changed. Keep the original as a way of remembering how we were, but publish a newer more acceptable version to show how we have changed.

I can understand the fuss about it, granted, but to me, as a little boy myself, it was a lovely bedtime story, read at first by my mother, and then by myself. And maybe it was a sign of things to come, but the illustrations of them tucking in to those pancakes... smiley - drool


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