The Brownies’ Book, February 1920, cover
Caption: For their second issue, The Brownies’ Book chose a sculpture of a Black child for the cover. The title reads “I am an American Citizen.”
The NAACP and W.E.B. Du Bois created The Brownies’ Book to speak directly to Black children about the world and their lives. The images in the magazine were a key part of how the magazine worked to help its readers know (in the language of the time) that “being ‘colored’ is a normal, beautiful thing.” They also gave it the title “I am an American Citizen.”1
The Constitution recognized all African Americans, and all people born in the US of any race, as US Citizens. However, there were many ways that Black people were denied their full rights as citizens. Southern states prevented Black people from voting. Lynchings—killings outside the legal system—took the lives of hundreds of Black people, and racism limited Black people’s opportunities at work, in education, and more, in both the North and South.
Despite these experiences of racism and injustice, African Americans valued their citizenship and worked to secure their full rights as citizens.
Anna Holmes, “The Magazine That Helped 1920s Kids Navigate Racism,” The Atlantic, February 2021, 1-21, https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2021/02/how-w-e-b-du-bois-changed-black-childhood-america/617952/. ↩︎
Date: February 1920
Creator: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Source: Library of Congress
Copyright: Public domain
How to cite: “The Brownies’ Book, February 1920, cover,” National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/gallery/brownies2.
Questions to Consider
- What words would you use to describe the sculpture? What feelings does it bring up for you?
- Why do you think the editors gave the cover the title “I am an American Citizen”?
- The Brownies’ Book was created in part to oppose dominant racist images of Black people at the time. It was also created to encourage Black children to be politically aware and engaged. How does this cover reflect those goals? "
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