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Learning from the LeftChildren's Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States$
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Julia L. Mickenberg

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195152807

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195152807.001.0001

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Ballad for American Children

Ballad for American Children

History, Folklore, and Leftist Civic Education

(p.231) 7 Ballad for American Children
Learning from the Left

Julia L. Mickenberg (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Beginning with Meridel Le Sueur's River Road: A Story of Abraham Lincoln, this chapter examines children's literature, primarily from the 1940s and 1950s, which employed history, folklore, and American tradition toward a project of “leftist civic education”. Radicals both rewrote master narratives to emphasize a working-class perspective, and also recovered the stories of marginalized people, particularly members of the working class, women, and African Americans. Ironically, by creating markets for children's books dealing with American history and life, civic education programs and other school initiatives usually designed to boost children's patriotism fostered the production of books that used the past to criticize conditions in the present. The chapter explores the traditional association between the Left and folklore as it played out in children's literature. Finally, using biographies of black women by Dorothy Sterling, Ann Petry, Emma Gelders Sterne, and Shirley Graham, it traces leftist concern with African Americans and with women, as these played out in historical works for children.

Keywords:   history, folklore, Dorothy Sterling, Ann Petry, Emma Gelders Sterne. Shirley Graham, civic education, African Americans, biography

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