The Truth About Sambo

Arguably, the most controversial picaninny image is the one created by this author. This author regularly wrote illustrated letters with fantasy storylines to entertain her children. In 1898 there “came into her head, evolved by the moving of a train,” the entertaining story of a little Black boy, beautifully clothed, who outwits a succession of tigers, and not only saves his own life but gets a stack of tiger-striped pancakes. The story eventually became Little Black Sambo.

The book appeared in England in 1899 and was an immediate success. The next year it was published in the United States by Frederick A. Stokes, a mainstream publisher. It was even more successful than it had been in England. The book’s success led to many imitators – and controversies.

Q. Who wrote “Little Black Sambo?”

A: Hellen Bannerman

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