Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Roxane Gay and others on racist “Little House” depictions


In this clip from American Masters — Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page, Roxane Gay, Louise Erdrich, Pamela Smith Hill, Linda Sue Park and others discuss Wilder’s racist depictions of American Indian and Black people in the “Little House” book series.


(casual inspiring music) - [Narrator] Nordstrom also asked Wilder to consider cutting a scene from 'Little Town on the Prairie' in which Paul appears in blackface and sings a racist song.

Wilder agreed and some of the offending lyrics were trimmed.

But the word darkies and the illustration can still be found in the book today.

- I know some colleagues have said that they wish those scenes would be cut from new versions of the book.

I don't agree with that.

It's very disturbing, but it is part of our history, and if we don't talk about these issues honestly with our children, we are jeopardizing their future and the future of our country.

- The books just have to be taught in context, and the proper context, not revisionist context.

- Brainstorm in your groups some new names that may be more respectful to the Native American culture.

- What I see these books as basically, I would say they're like 'Gone with the Wind' for kids.

- Kids are certainly gonna love 'Little House', grownups like 'Gone with the Wind'. But what is it really?

It's a way of valorizing the things that destroyed entire peoples in this country.

- [Narrator] The racist scenes moved the American Library Association to rename its Laura Ingalls Wilder Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2018, it was changed to the Children's Literature Legacy Award.

- They took the name off of the award because they didn't feel they could hold up Laura Ingalls Wilder as a contemporary role model for young readers.

The books are dehumanizing to children of color, and they have a lot of really damaging messages for White children.

- I was hurt by those books, and that took me 50 years to reconcile.

'Cause the books that we love as children, oh they're part of us, right?

They're so much a part of our identity.

(casual inspiring music)


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.