In addition to spending a good deal of time with my classes exploring the ways that slavery shaped American history in the 19th Century I also introduce them to various ideas of race that proved popular at different times. We look at images of “Jim Crow” and “Sambo” and discuss the historical background of minstrel shows. Of course, many of these images and ideas are introduced at very early ages. On Friday one of my students surprised me with a volume from the Little Golden Books series published by Simon and Schuster. Apparently it belonged to one of his parents. This particular volume is titled Little Black Sambo (1948) and was authored by Helen Bannerman who was also responsible for Little Black Quibba and Little Black Bobtail. The entire series was overseen by Mary Reed, Ph.D who taught at the Teachers College of Columbia University. These books are highly collectible.
The opening lines of the book are as follows:
“Once upon a time there was a little black boy, and his name was Little Black Sambo. And his Mother was called Black Mumbo. And his Father was called Black Jumbo.”