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Banned Book Review: Little Black Sambo

September 7, 2006

90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

contain racist caricatures and stereotypes

If you were just to read the story of Little Black Sambo, or happen to pick up one of the later versions, you might wonder what all the controversy was about.  If you didn’t know that “Sambo” was considered a racial slur to some, you might be even more confused.  And if you tried really hard to track down *why* Sambo is considered a racial slur, you would be ready to tear your hair out at the number of pompous twits who seem to believe that a housewife in 1898 deliberately disregarded the difference between Indians and Africans when she picked out the name of the character she was telling stories to her children about.

The stories themselves are great stories about children outsmarting dangerous creatures and adults.  The narrative calls to mind a rougher version of the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, which were published four years later.  There are a number of other versions of Little Black Sambo in which the main character’s name, race, and even gender have been changed to suit the purchaser.  I prefer the original.  Recommended for children 4-8.

Check it out for yourself at Project Gutenburg.  Warning, the page is graphics intensive, so may take a while to load.

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