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 901 books featuring Black/African/African American characters:
|27% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE NOT CENTRAL to the story. These elements may be present, but they are not essential to the plot and could be changed without altering the storyline. We call these Any Child Books.|
|25% are books in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories ARE CENTRAL to the story. These books explicitly focus on the diverse expressions of human experience, depending on these elements to drive the storyline. We call these Beautiful Life books.|
|29% are Biographies, featuring the life of a particular person or group of people from a historical or contemporary perspective.|
|24% portray relationships between named characters across racial or cultural difference. We call these Cross-Group books.|
|4% are Folklore books, featuring tales, proverbs, songs, or legends and myths that transmit the values, knowledge, traditions, practices and rituals of a people.|
|4% feature a racially diverse cast of non-primary characters or a white or animal main character(s). We call these Incidental books.|
|4% present factual information (with or without a storyline) that does not always have to do with difference. These books may be encyclopedic. We call these Informational books.|
|27% are about group-based injustice and/or struggles for justice. We call these Oppression & Resilience books.|
|5% explore and/or compare specific aspects of human difference, inviting readers to consider varying perspectives related to race, ethnicity, culture, or tribal affiliation. We call these Concept books.|