The Golden Book Encyclopedia was the best-selling children’s encyclopedia in America ever. The 1959 edition sold throughout the 1960s. It is the oldest encyclopedia in my possession – and it writes about black people just four years before Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
- name: Negroes
- race: Negroid. The Bantus, Melanesians and Hottentots are Negroid but not Negroes.
- physical appearance:
- skin: brown or black
- hair: kinky and black
- eyes: dark brown
- nose: broad
- lips: thick
- origin: Africa, particularly West Africa, the home of the True Negroes.
- The early New World explorers – Columbus, Balboa, Pizzaro, Cortes – had Negroes among their men.
- Most Negroes who reached the Americas were brought as slaves.
- Some American Negroes founded the country of Liberia in 1847.
- “The War Between the States” was brought on “partly because the North and the South did not agree about slavery. “
- Lincoln freed the slaves in the Emancipation Proclamation.
- “Even after the slave were freed, they did not have much chance to move forward. Many ways of earning a living were closed to them. It was not easy for a Negro to get an education.”
- “Now the chances of getting a good education are far better.” Presumably a reference to Brown v Board (1954) and school desegregation.
- “Negroes have become famous in many fields.”
- famous Negroes: it has articles on:
- Booker T. Washington,
- George Washington Carver
- capabilities: “Negroes are helping to prove that scientists are right in saying that no race is more capable than another.”
- images: the article on Negroes pictures them as:
- “African native carving a stool”,
- plantation workers,
- civic leader,
Africa: A huge point it makes over and over again is that transport in Africa is terrible. There are few good roads or railroads. It has two of the world’s longest rivers – the Nile and Congo – but ships cannot go very far before hitting waterfalls or rapids. That is because the middle of Africa is made up of highlands. In addition there are vast deserts and jungles.
Therefore, even though Africans were civilized when Europeans were still living in caves, that civilization spread mainly to Asia and Europe, not to the rest of Africa. Even in 1950s there were still people who had no written language. Some still lived by hunting and fishing like their ancestors have done for hundreds of years.
Colonial vocabulary and imagery: It is big on calling Africans “natives”, even when it does not have to. They do not live in houses but “huts”. It commonly shows Africans as living in huts, carrying shields or spears, as “savages” (pictured above). In the article on Africa they are all shown as black-skinned.
Union of South Africa: “Much of South Africa’s Negro population is still poor and unhappy. It is important that the Union’s people find better ways of working together.” That was printed one year before Sharpeville and three years before Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island.
- Golden Book Encyclopedia
- black people according to:
- Of “natives”
- Compare and contrast: