By Helen Bannerman
Illustrated by Fred Marcellino
Helen Bannerman (1862-1946), the author and illustrator of The Story of Little Black Sambo (published in 1899), lived in India for several years; the basis for the story came from illustrated letters she wrote to her children during her time there. Though “sambo” was a term used throughout the 1800s it seems to have risen to its now well-known racist usage in the first half of the 1900s, perhaps in part owed to this story.
The Story of Little Black Sambo has been a point of controversy for nearly as long as it’s been in print. The story itself obviously took place in India, featuring tigers and ghee, or clarified butter, but Bannerman’s art featured an offensively caricatured black child.
Despite being married to some…
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