Renewed but not Redeemed: Revising Elsie Dinsmore

Abstract

Elsie Dinsmore, the first book in a late 19th century children’s series, is unique because it had not been adapted, just reprinted, until 1999. It is also unique in the setting, the mythic Southern plantation life of the 1850s. The 1999 edition ameliorated what is now recognized as racist language based on the images of the minstrelsy tradition, though consonant with the views of the time period. However, the deep structure of the story—its dependence on the plantation myth, its belief in the basic inferiority of African Americans, and its acceptance of slavery as compatible with Christianity—is not changed. The new edition is a comment on the publishing industry’s disregard of racial history and the importance of context for understanding literature.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. John Abbott (1859) Stories of Rainbow and Lucky Harper & Brothers New York

    Google Scholar 

  2. Louisa May Alcott (1865) Little Women Lippincott New York

    Google Scholar 

  3. Michael Apple (1988) Teachers and Texts: A Political Economy of Class and Gender Relations in Education Routledge New York

    Google Scholar 

  4. Helen Bannerman (1899) The Story of Little Black Sambo Lippincott Philadelphia

    Google Scholar 

  5. Helen Bannerman Christopher Bing (2003) The Story of Little Black Sambo Handprint Books New York

    Google Scholar 

  6. Helen Bannerman Fred Marcellini (1996) The Story of Little Babaji HarperCollins New York

    Google Scholar 

  7. John Baugh (1983/2004) “Black street speech: Its history, structure, and survival” R.L. Jackson (Eds) African American Communication & Identities EditionNumberII Thousand Oaks Sage 89–101

    Google Scholar 

  8. Bogle Donald (1993/2004) “Black beginnings: From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Birth of a Nation” R.L. Jackson (Eds) African American Communication & Identities EditionNumberII Thousand Oaks Sage 281–290

    Google Scholar 

  9. Mingshui Cai Rudine Sims-Bishop (1994) “Multicultural literature for children: Towards a clarification of the concept” H.Dyson Anne Genishi Celia (Eds) The Need for Story: Cultural Diversity in Classroom and Community NCTE Urbana, IL 57–71

    Google Scholar 

  10. Christian, Nicole M., “Some things are too tainted to get second chances”, Detroit Free Press, Jan. 29, 2004.

  11. Cullen, Dan, “National figures show independents hold market share in a flat market”, retrieved from http://news.bookweb.org/news/1410.html, May 01, 2003.

  12. Davis, Rachel, “Booksellers profit as religious authors go mainstream”, The Florida Times-Union, July 26, 2001.

  13. J.L. Dillard (Eds) (1975) Perspectives on Black English Mouton & Co., 1975; Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, Inc. The Hague, The Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  14. Martha Finley (1868) Elsie Dinsmore Dodd, Mead, and Co. New York

    Google Scholar 

  15. Martha Finley (1868/1997) Elsie Dinsmore Holly Hall Elkton, MD

    Google Scholar 

  16. Goncalves, Wade Knox, “Little Black Sambo and the legacy of image in African American literature for children”, paper presented at the The Annual Conference and Exhibit of The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Baltimore, MD, 1994.

  17. Gray, Beverly J., “The Friends of Freedom Society Ohio Underground Railroad Association”, retrieved from http://www.ohioundergroundrailroad.org/south.htm, March 23, 2004.

  18. Daniel D. Hade (2002) ArticleTitle“Storyselling: Are publishers changing the way children read?” The Horn Book Magazine 5 IssueIDLXXVIII 509–517

    Google Scholar 

  19. Joel Chandler Harris (1881) Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings, the Folklore of the Old Plantation D. Appleton and Company New York

    Google Scholar 

  20. Joel Chandler Harris (1903) Told by Uncle Remus: New Stories of the Old Plantation. Grosset & Dunlap New York

    Google Scholar 

  21. Violet J. Harris (1993) “African-American children’s literature: The first one hundred years” T. Perry J. Fraser (Eds) Freedom’s Plow: Teaching in the Multicultural Classroom Routledge New York 167–181

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hochwald, Lambeth, “Little book, big controversy”, Publishers Weekly, July 29, 1996, 32.

  23. Peter Hollindale (1992) “Ideology and the children’s book” Peter Hunt (Eds) Literature for Children: Contemporary Criticism Routledge London

    Google Scholar 

  24. Johnson, Deirdre, “19th century girls series”, retrieved from http://www.readseries.com, January 10, 2004.

  25. Kress, Michael, “Slicing the market pie”, Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2000, 16.

  26. Julius Lester (1987) The Tales of Uncle Remus: The Adventures of Brer Rabbit Dial Books New York

    Google Scholar 

  27. Julius Lester (1988) ArticleTitle“The storyteller’s voice: Reflections on the rewriting of Uncle Remus” The New Advocate 1.3 143–147

    Google Scholar 

  28. Julius Lester (1996) Sam and theTigers: A New Telling of Little Black Sambo Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney Dial Books for Young Readers New York

    Google Scholar 

  29. Lewis, Clyde Staples, On three ways of writing for children,in Only Connect: Readings on Childrens Literature, 2nd edn. Sheila Egoff et al., eds., pp. 207-220. New York: Oxford University Press, 1952/1980; In Of This and Other Worlds, Walter Hooper, ed.. London: Collins, 1982.

  30. Eric Lott Theft Love (1995) Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class Oxford University Press New York

    Google Scholar 

  31. MacCann, Donnarae. The White Supremacy Myth in Juvenile Books about Blacks, 1830–1900. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, The University of Iowa, 1988.

  32. Margaret Mackey (1988) ArticleTitle “Little women go to market: Shifting texts and changing readers” Children’s Literature in Education 29. 3 153–173

    Google Scholar 

  33. Micki McElya (2003) Monumental Citizenship: Reading the Mammy Memorial: Controversy of the Early Twentieth Century New York University New York

    Google Scholar 

  34. InstitutionalAuthorNameMission City Press (1999) Elsie’s Endless Wait (Vol 1) Mission City Press Franklin, TN

    Google Scholar 

  35. Maria Nikolajeva (1996) Children’s Literature Comes of Age: Toward a New Aesthetic Garland Publishing, Inc. New York

    Google Scholar 

  36. Perry Nodelman (1996) The Pleasures of Children’s Literature Longman’s Publishing New York

    Google Scholar 

  37. Repplier, Agnes, “Little pharisees in fiction”, Scribner’s Magazine, Dec., 1896.

  38. Richardson, Gary, ed. Zonderkidz, personal communication, 2001.

  39. David Roediger (1991/1999) The Wages of Whiteness: Race and Making of the American Working Class, revised edn Verso New York

    Google Scholar 

  40. J.K. Rowling (1998) Harry Potter Scholastic New York

    Google Scholar 

  41. Segel, Elizabeth, “As the twig is bent”: Gender and childhood: Essays on readers, texts, and contexts, in Gender and Reading, E. A. Flynn and P. P. Schweikart, eds., pp. 165--186. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

  42. Sekeres, Diane Carver, The profit motive and the prophets message: multiculturalism in Christian childrens literature. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, The University of Georgia, 2003.

  43. STATS. Christian Publishing Trends Report - 2002.

  44. John Stephens Robyn McCallum (Eds) (1988) Retelling Stories Framing Culture: Traditional Story and Metanarratives in Children’s Literature Garland Publishing, Inc New York

    Google Scholar 

  45. Robert Louis Stevenson (1883) Treasure Island Cassell & Co New York

    Google Scholar 

  46. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852) Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or Life Among the Lowly John P. Jewett & Co Boston

    Google Scholar 

  47. Harriet Beecher Stowe (1853) A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Presenting the Original Facts and Documents upon which the Story is Founded together with Corroborative Statements Verifying the Truth of the Work John P. Jewett & Co Boston

    Google Scholar 

  48. Joel Taxel (2002) ArticleTitleChildren’s literature at the turn of the century: Toward a political economy of the publishing industry Research in the Teaching of English 37.2 146–198

    Google Scholar 

  49. Mildred Taylor (1977) ArticleTitle“Newbery award acceptance” The Horn Book Magazine 53 401–409

    Google Scholar 

  50. Patricia A. Turner (1994) Ceramic Uncles & Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture Anchor Books New York

    Google Scholar 

  51. Mark Twain (1876) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer American Publishing Co Hartford, CT

    Google Scholar 

  52. Mark Twain D.S. Laiken (2002) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Great Illustrated Classics) Abdo & Daughters Edina, MN

    Google Scholar 

  53. Willis, Christian, “Song of the South”, retrieved from http://www.songofthesouth.net/home.html, February 22, 2004.

  54. Wilson, Florence, “Faces we seldom see: The author of the Elsie books”, Ladies’ Home Journal, April, 1893, n.p.

  55. Johann David Wyss (1832) The Swiss Family Robinson, or, Adventures of a Father and Mother and Four Sons on a Desert Island J. & J. Harper New York

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Diane Carver Sekeres.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sekeres, D.C. Renewed but not Redeemed: Revising Elsie Dinsmore. Child Lit Educ 36, 15–39 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-004-2187-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • 19th century children’s literature
  • racism in children’s literature
  • publishing
  • adaptations of children’s literature