Published: Thu, June 28, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Merle Christensen

Laura Ingalls Wilder dropped from U.S. children's book award over racist language

Laura Ingalls Wilder dropped from U.S. children's book award over racist language

The decision to remove her name from the award was the result of years of charges that Wilder's depictions of Native Americans and African-Americans are racist.

"Perceptions matter, along with the very real pain associated with her works for some, and year after year ALSC gives the impression of upholding Wilder's works through an award that bears her name", the board wrote.

"We believe it is important to recognize Wilder's contributions to literacy, libraries, and culture, even as her works continue to spark discussion and scholarly debate", the LIWLRA continued.

In "Little House on the Prairie", Wilder wrote, "Their Faces were bold and fierce and bad". Lindsay says the change isn't meant to erase Wilder.

The change, reported by Fox News, comes following a vote by the Association for Library Service to Children to rename the "Laura Ingalls Wilder Award" to the "Children's Literature Legacy Award".

The editor at Harper's who received the reader's complaint wrote back saying it was "unbelievable" to her that not a single person at Harper's ever noticed, for almost 20 years, that the sentence appeared to imply that Native Americans were not people, according to a 2007 biography of Wilder by Pamela Smith Hill.

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Harper's in 1953 chose to change "people" to "settlers" but other criticisms focused on her depictions of Native Americans and some African Americans.

Her books depicted her family's adventures traveling the Western frontier and also were adapted into a TV series, "Little House on the Prairie".

Throughout the series, multiple characters remark "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" and Wilder described one setting as a place where "there were no people". But, as many teachers and scholars have pointed out for years, the books are riddled with historical errors, most of which are connected to United States policy toward native Indians.

"I absolutely would (read the books again)", Miller said.

Her first book, The Little House in the Big Woods was published in 1932 when she was 65.

In an additional background document the association provided, they stated that although other past ALSC award recipients may no long live up to their current values either, the name of the award in itself holds power. "For decades, her legacy has been awash in sentimentality, but every American ... should learn the harsh history behind her work".

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