Friday, 20 July, 2018

Is ‘Little House on the Prairie’ Racist? Laura Ingalls Wilder Controversy Explained

Big name Former first lady Michelle Obama opened the annual ALA conference with a speech last week Big name Former first lady Michelle Obama opened the annual ALA conference with a speech last week
Ginger Lopez | 28 June, 2018, 09:15

Wilder, born in 1867, published her first "Little House on the Prairie" book in 1932; the seven subsequent novels about pioneer life in the west were published through 1943, just 14 years before she died.

"This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder's legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness", the association said in a statement on its website. "Only Indians lived there".

The "Little House" series told fictionalized versions of stories from Wilder's own life, as her family traveled the United States' western frontier in the nineteenth century. It said, "The award was created in 1954 when an understanding of the message it sends to people of color, specifically American Indians and those of African descent, was not recognized".

A division of the American Library Association voted to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder's name from a children's literature award. The board had created a task force to examine the issue back in January, saying Wilder's legacy was "complex" and her works "not universally embraced". In 1998, an 8-year-old girl on the Upper Sioux Reservation was so disturbed after hearing her teacher read the statement aloud in class that she went home crying, leading her mother to unsuccessfully petition the school district to ban the book from its curriculum. Many years ago, in 1952, Wilder's word choice was called into question after a reader complained that a phrase used in Little House on the Prairie, "there were no people". Lindsay says the change isn't meant to erase Wilder.




Some applaud the ALSC for taking measures to correct oppressive outdated racial attitudes, but other readers and critics argue that Wilder certainly had no ill intent and that her books - like all art, were merely a reflection of the social mores of their times.

"It continues to be a focus of scholarship and literary analysis, which often brings to light anti-Native and anti-Black sentiments in her work", the board said at the time. "For decades, her legacy has been awash in sentimentality, but every American ... should learn the harsh history behind her work".

In changing the award's name, the library association attempted to navigate this tension.

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