The Journal of Negro History/Volume 7/Number 2/Hayne's Unsung Heroes

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Unsung Heroes. By Mrs. Elizabeth Ross Haynes. N. Y. DuBois & Dill. 1921. 279 pp. Illustrated.

One of the gravest problems now facing the Negroes in the United States, and a problem none the less grave because unrecognized by the unthinking majority, is that of reading for their children. Can anything be more dangerous than the continual subjection of our children to the influence of books, magazines, and newspapers in which their race is being held up constantly to pity or contempt? The use of opprobrious and insulting epithets with reference to the Negro is so common in English and American publications as to need no more than a mere reference here, and this practice is to be noted even in authors who are conscious of no active race hostility. If the psychological influence of such endlessly reiterated and therefore inescapable slurs is bad for adults, how much worse must it be for children. In The Brownies' Book, published by DuBois and Dill, a most praiseworthy attempt has been made to meet this need in the form of a children's magazine free from all objectionable matter, and it is nothing short of a national calamity that this periodical has been forced to suspend publication because of a lack of sufficient patronage. It is fitting, then, that the same publishers should issue the book now under our hand, a fine specimen of the printer's art in paper, presswork, binding, and illustrations.

In it the author, the wife of Dr. George E. Haynes, the well-known sociologist, has set forth in a language and style suited to young readers the lives of seventeen of the most celebrated men and women of Negro descent. Eight of them—Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Banneker, Phillis Wheatley, Josiah Henson, Sojourner Truth, Attucks, and Paul Cuffé—belong to the ante-bellum period in America; five—Dunbar, Booker Washington, B. K. Bruce, Crummell, and Langston—to the reconstruction and late nineteenth century periods; and four—Pushkin, the Russian; L'Ouverture, the Haytian; Coleridge-Taylor, the Englishman; and Alexandre Dumas, the Frenchman—belong across the ocean. It will be seen that the selection is a representative one, and that no living person is included. The material chosen from each life is carefully selected, too, to suit the minds and tastes of children. There are six illustrations by four of our well-known young artists. Altogether the book is the most satisfactory addition yet made to our children's literature in this country, and should be in every home where there are colored children, and in every library in which they are readers.

E. C. Williams