Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Removed From Award Over Racism Concerns
Popular children’s book author Laura Ingalls Wilder will have her name removed from a major children’s book award, after concerns over potentially offensive racial depictions in her books, which were first published in the 1930s.
The board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, made the unanimous decision to remove the name of the author at a meeting in New Orleans on Saturday.
Effectively, the name of the prize was changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.
The association reportedly said the vote “was greeted by a standing ovation by the audience in attendance.”
The first award ever was given to Wilder in 1954. The ALSC, which is based in Chicago, said her work continues to be published and read but her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced.”
First published in 1932, Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series was written for children, recounting the author’s experience growing up on the Midwestern frontier in the late 19th century.
It has since become a staple of children’s literature in the U.S. and around the world, spawning multiple literary spinoffs, merchandise, and a wildly popular television series in 1974. The books have been widely credited with chronicling the experience of ordinary settlers eking a life in a rapidly growing nation.
The ALSC stated though, that her books “[include] expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values” based on Wilder’s portrayal of black people and Native Americans.
In the late 1990s, scholar Waziyatawin Angela Cavender Wilson approached the Yellow Medicine East School District after her daughter came home crying because of a line in the book, first attributed to Gen. Philip Sheridan but a common saying by that time: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Wilder, who was born in 1867 and died in 1957, has apologized for some of her thoughtless phrasings, even amended a line in “Little House on the Prairie” that read Kansas had ‘no people, only Indians.’ It now reads, ‘no settlers, only Indians.’
Some applaud the ALSC for taking measures to correct oppressive outdated racial attitudes, but other readers and critics argue that Wilder certainly had no ill intent and that her books — like all art, were merely a reflection of the social mores of their times. Such issues, of course, can lead to the greater subject of censorship as well.