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From abolition to Zephaniah: a brief history of literature for the Black British child

Karen Sands-O’Connor, Professor of English, Buffalo State College, New York

Date/Time: 3rd December 2015

Writing and publishing for a Black British child audience has always had a political angle, and the motivations of, and negotiations between, author, publisher, and reader are complex. The production of literature affects and is affected by other cultural and institutional factors, including government legislation, educational trends and policies, and popular media. Beginning in the abolitionist period, children's authors and publishers created an image of the Black (British) child and established parameters for how this child would and could function in (white) British society.

This lecture examines the decisions, both moral and mercenary, behind the creation and marketing of literature for the Black British and British-Caribbean child reader. It discusses changes in the resulting literature as the intended audience changed through the 19th and 20th centuries, in popular, literary, and educational media for British readers.

Speaker biography

Karen Sands-O'Connor is Leverhulme Visiting Professor at Newcastle University in the School of English Language, Literature and Linguistics. She also teaches at SUNY Buffalo State in the USA.

She has published widely on Black British children's literature, most notably in her monograph, Soon Come Home to this Island: West Indians in British Children's Literature (Routledge 2007). She is currently researching her next book, Publishing for a Black British Child Audience, 1965-2015 (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming), using the archival resources in Seven Stories, the National Centre for the Children's Book.