Thursday, February 28, 2008

Balck* (for Black)

February is Black History Month, which makes it a good time to note that Richard Wright's Native Son, published in 1940, was the first Book-of-the-Month Club selection by an African-American author. Richard Wright and the Library Card, by William Miller, is a fictionalized account, based on Wright's autobiography Black Boy, of the way in which the young Richard managed to obtain a library card in the segregated South of the 1920s. (School Library Journal points out that the portrayal of the white librarian is too harsh to square with reality, but the book nevertheless shows the lengths to which this "black boy" had to go to gain access to the world of books.) I discovered 35 cases of Balck (and 52 of Balck*) in OhioLINK, about half of them being typos for black, while the rest are proper names that may or may not be misspelled. (Photograph of Richard Wright reading to his daughter Julia in 1944, from the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.)

Carol Reid

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