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ArtHistory

#books#childhood#children’s book#family

100 Years After the Original, ‘The New Brownies’ Book’ Revives a Beloved Children’s Publication for Black Youth

December 30, 2023

Kate Mothes

Lavett Ballard, “Best Friends & Blue Magic.” All images © the artists, courtesy of Chronicle Books, shared with permission

In 1920, sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois published the first issue of The Brownies’ Book, a “monthly magazine for children of the sun.” He invited celebrated Black creatives to contribute to the periodical, reaching out to artists, songwriters, authors, and poets—Langston Hughes’ first published poems even appeared in the magazine. In his call for entries, Du Bois encouraged the highest quality writing, photography, illustration, and more, “so that Black children will know that they are thought about and LOVED.”

A century later, the project has been revived as an anthology by Du Bois scholar Dr. Karida L. Brown and artist and children’s book creator Charly Palmer. The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families, published by Chronicle Books and designed by Kieron Lewis, showcases work by contemporary Black artists and writers who celebrate the extraordinary lives and imaginations of children.

Vivid portraits, collages, and photographs accompany essays and creative writing by dozens of contributors, expressing memories, love, and joy for moments spanning the everyday to the extraordinary. From memories of time spent together to lessons learned to hopes for the future, the messages aim to inspire young Black people to be true to themselves, follow their dreams, and harness the power of love and family.

Alongside new contributions, the tome also includes selections from the original publication, including nine poems by Langston Hughes, plus an excerpt from the last published poem by Ntozake Shange. Find your copy on Bookshop.

Jamaal Barber, “Because This Is a Dream”

April Harrison, “Community Prayer”

Charly Palmer, “Make Me Wanna Holla”

Alfred Conteh, “Neveah”

Lynthia Edwards, “Sassy Mouth”

Tokie Rome-Taylor, “Scout”

#books#childhood#children’s book#family

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