The first black woman Librarian of Congress’ favorite children’s book

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden — the first black woman to hold this position — explained why it’s so important for children of color to see themselves reflected in children’s books in an interview with PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown this week.

Hayden told Brown about a children’s book that holds particular importance to her: Bright April, written and illustrated by Marguerite De Angeli and published in 1946. The book portrays a black girl’s life in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and her experiences with racial prejudice.

Hayden connected with the book as a child because she was able to relate to the main character.

She was a little African American girl who had the little socks and two pigtails and she was a Brownie. And at that time I was a Brownie, I had two pigtails, and I had a family that was reflected in this book. There weren’t many books that showed African Americans in a sympathetic way.

Hayden also showed Brown a photo of her family and explained how it reminded her of the family dinner illustration in Bright April. read more 

Bright April

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Bright April is a 1946 children’s story book written and illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli, who later won the 1950 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature for The Door in the Wall. Bright April is a story about a young African-American girl named April who experiences racial prejudice; it is also the story of her bright personality and her tenth birthday and the surprise it brought. The story is set in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the scenery portrayed in the author’s illustrations can be recognized even today.

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Bright April was the first children’s book to address the divisive issue of racial prejudice, a daring topic for a children’s book of that time. Selected digital images of this book are available at the Marguerite de Angeli Collection.[1] Bright April is available for loan at the Open Library.

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