In 1920, W.E.B. Du Bois understood the importance of positive and accurate representation of Black people in the print media. His solution: The Brownies’ Book, a monthly magazine for the “Children of the Sun…designed for all children, but especially for ours.” The magazine would be published for the next two years, before financial problems halted production.
Now, more than a century later, Atlanta-based husband and wife duo Charly Palmer and Karida L. Brown have decided to recreate the sentiment in The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter To Black Families.
It all started six years ago when Brown, an Emory University sociology professor stumbled “across a 1919 request for contributions to a magazine for Black children called The Brownies’ Book.”
At that time, Brown was being courted by Palmer, who would end up becoming her future husband. During one of their conversations, Palmer asked her if she were writing a children’s book, what would she include? Then Brown discussed the possibility of “revisiting The Brownies’ Book for the current generation,” reports The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the Library of Congress, the original Brownies’ Book featured “a groundbreaking mix of stories, advice, information and correspondence with the paramount goal of empowering Black children and validating their interests. Content included African folk tales, stories and poems about the origin of different races and messages about self-respect and pride in one’s appearance.”
The new book builds off of Du Bois’ legacy, and the anthology is a unique collection of “short stories, games, comic strips, open letters, essays, poems, portraits and mixed-media artwork from 50 Black writers and artists.”
The couple is extremely proud of the passion project they were able to collaborate on and bring to life. When asked what it was like working together with his partner, Palmer said, “When Karida puts on her boss hat, she really is in charge, and she can really be tough. This was a labor of love for both of us.” “We saw this as a commitment to our families,” he continued. “This was an opportunity to do something that was passionate to both of us.”
“We selected our folks who we know just love Black folks,” Brown stated. “We could’ve totally gone with just celebrities, but we wanted folks who said Black from their chest.”
“We want the book on the coffee table of every Black family across the country and around the world,” Brown says. “This is not just a book. It’s a movement, a program and an elevator to bring everybody up. We’re just shepherds of tradition.”
“It’s a love letter to Black families,” Palmer added. “We want Black families to know they are loved. This stuff is tear-jerking and full of laughter, and there’s a cause that’s bigger than us. We just had to figure out how to pull it all together.”