History of Black Portrayals in Literature"
Onuora is an assistant professor in the
School of Education at Millikin University
where she specializes in teaching literacy
courses to early childhood and elementary
education majors in the teacher education
program. She is a member of the
International Literacy Association, Literacy
Research Association, National Council of
Teachers of English, the Illinois Reading
Council, and the Macon County Reading
Council. She serves on the Editorial
Advisory Board of the Illinois Reading
Council Journal (since 2012) and is a member
of their Children's Literature/Reading
Special Interest Group (SIG). Additionally,
she has served as Vice-President of the
Macon County Reading Council since 2013.
Dr. Onuora loves literature and when she was
growing up her mother read to her and she
learned early that she also wanted to read
everything her mother read. Dr. Onuora asks
3 questions: 1) How have Blacks been
portrayed in literature? 2) How do these
portrayals impact all of us? 3) How do these
images manifest in us still today? She
talked about Stereotype’s, Tropes, Ideology,
and Portrayal and her definitions of each.
realized that black people were not
portrayed well if at all in literature. She
asked her students what are some of your
favorite books. One of the books was Little
Black Sambo. The problem is that Sambo is a
racial slur. This was written in 1899, over
100 years ago. Another example is the
Ezekiel series and it is a mockery of black
speech depicting a negative image. These
were the kind of things that were available.
Some of the tropes for females include Mammy
(Fat, black, and ugly, Aunt Jamima syrup
until the late 1980’s), Jezebel (slaves
looked upon as undressed in the wild a
sexual image), and Sapphire (Strong black
woman, too independent, Sassy, Angry, Amos
and Andy). Some male tropes include
Contented Slave, Comic Negro (Happy hearted
slave), Wretched Freedman (Unable to
flourish on their own), Tragic Mallato (male
or female, Trying to navigate 2 worlds),
Exotic Primitive (The Cay, animal like, 3/5
of a person, prone to violence), Brute Negro
(book Slave Dancer, portrayed as beasts and
What is the impact of the images that are
being portrayed of blacks, still today?
Nancy Larrick who was an educator, wrote an
article entitled The All-White World of
Children’s Literature, based on the fact
that the literature she was reviewing did
not include images of young black children,
and the images it did include were not of
substance. The remake of Little Orphan Annie
with a young African American girl as Annie
received many negative online responses.
What that means is that people did now
understand that Little Orphan Annie was a
story, it wasn’t a real person so anyone
could play the part. Publisher are not
interested in works by African American
authors so not many are published.
The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has
published data since the mid 1980’s. What
they have found is that about 5000
children’s books are published each year.
Dr. Onuora showed a snap shot of the even
years from 2002 to 2012. The data showed, in
2002 only 69 books by African American
authors, in 2010 only 102 and in 2012 there
were on 66. That is only about 1.3%. Pretty
sad statistics if you ask me.
said the Flapjacks at Applebee’s Fundraiser was
a big success and our profit from the breakfast
was $1354.60. Thank you to all who sold tickets,
waited on tables, and attended, we sold 282
tickets, but only 174 were redeemed. We can do
this fund raiser 2 times per year, we may want
to make this an annual spring and fall fund
raiser. Next Saturday the Early Birds are having
a Flapjack fundraiser at Applebee’s from 8:00 to
10:00. Tickets will be available at the door.
announced the nominee’s for office.
is all set to park cars at Rock Springs Festival
of Spring April 25. All he needs is a crowd.
said there will be a meeting of the golf
committee after the meeting this morning.
said that “Adopt a Street” will be Saturday, May
9. We will be picking up Oakland Avenue working
from North to South starting at Pershing Rd down
to the old Tallman Cadillac. Please signup we
need about 10 people.
said pull tabs Thursday for team B, after the
meeting she will be selling gear. Beautify
Decatur is coming up May 14 at 9:00, meet in the
library parking lot.
read a thank you letter from
of the park district for our help cleaning up