About the Numbers
Black/African/African American characters are represented more frequently than any other racial/cultural group and show the widest representation across our categories. These characters are also most frequently represented in books about cultural particularity (Beautiful Life) and oppression, and in biographies.
The comparatively higher rate of books about Black/African/African American characters is not a surprise, given the history of transatlantic slavery that has so directly shaped understandings of race in the U.S., and the fact that African Americans constitute the largest racial minority. This may also be the reason why so many of these books are dominated by stories about struggle and attempts to highlight specific cultural expressions (Beautiful Life) and important figures (Biography) that/who have been ignored or erased. These numbers also reflect the uniquely American emphasis on “race” as Black/White, which may result in less frequent representations of other racial/cultural groups.
While continuing histories of anti-Black racism and stories that seek to counter it are so important to tell, we also argue that they do not alone capture the full humanity, diversity, and complexity of Black, African, and African American’s experiences historically or today.
We invite you to consider the other meanings and effects these numbers may reveal.
Of the 669 books featuring Black/African/African American characters:
|22% do not make race, ethnicity, or culture part of the plot. We call these Any Child Books.|
|30% take readers into the everyday world of characters in countries around the world, with specific cultural components such as language, food, celebrations, traditions, and/or other elements. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|28% are biographies.|
|22% portray character interactions across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|5% introduce readers to traditions, activities, languages and experiences, and includes all types of retellings and adaptations of traditional folktales. We call these Folklore books.|
|2% have a white protagonist. We call these Incidental books.|
|4% are nonfiction books that may not have a story line and do not always have to do with difference. These books are factual and may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|25% are stories of prejudice, mistreatment and discrimination based on race, ethnicity or culture. We call these Oppression books.|
|5% invite readers to consider new perspectives related to racial, ethnic, or cultural commonalities and differences. We call these Concept books.|