by Barbara Kyles
Do you know that “One day in late 1919, a young boy in Philadelphia named Franklin Lewis wrote a letter to a magazine editor at 2 West 13th Street, in New York City.”
My mother says you are going to have a magazine about colored boys and girls, and I am very glad. So I am writing to ask you if you will please put in your paper some of the things which colored boys can work at when they grow up. I don’t want to be a doctor, or anything like that. I think I’d like to plan houses for men to build. But one day, down on Broad Street, I was watching some men building houses and I said to a boy there, “When I grow up, I am going to draw a lot of houses like that and have men build them.” The boy was a white boy, and he looked at me and laughed and said, “Colored boys don’t draw houses.”
Why don’t they, Mr. Editor?
My mother says you will explain all this to me in your magazine and will tell me where to learn how to draw a house, for that is what I certainly mean to do. I hope I haven’t made you tired, so no more from your friend.
“The letter would appear the following year in The Brownies’ Book, a new monthly magazine for Black children. Nothing like it had ever existed before. Created and edited by W. E. B. Du Bois—the sociologist better known for his early civil-rights leadership than his work for kids—it aimed to present a new vision of Black American childhood.”
“It aims to be a thing of Joy and Beauty, dealing in Happiness, Laughter and Emulation, and designed especially for Kiddies from Six to Sixteen. It will seek to teach Universal Love and Brotherhood for all little folk—black and brown and yellow and white.
Of course, pictures, stories, letters from little ones, games and oh—everything!”
— Introductory note in the first issue of The Brownies’ Book, January 1920
I share with you this story from “Inheritance,” a project about American history and Black life..
Take a look and welcome to Black history…
Barbara Kyles is a Miami Township resident who enjoys advocating for social issues and gardening year-round.
Barbara will be publishing a continuing series about Black History for Loveland Magazine.