Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name stripped from literary award over racism concerns

Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over racism concerns

"Only Indians lived there", The Washington Post reported.

Despite the tremendous success of the semiautobiographical series, the Chicago-based American Library Association over the weekend made a decision to rescind Wilder's Medal for Excellence in Children's literature, a prestigious designation in the children's literary world.

The ALSC board made the recommendation in May, noting Wilder's name "has painful associations for many". The ALSC says Wilder's work continues to be published and read but her "legacy is complex" and "not universally embraced".

Ingalls was the first recipient of the award, which honors authors or illustrators whose books were published in the United States and had "a significant and lasting contribution to children's literature", in 1954 for her Little House on the Prairie book series.

Is Little House on the Prairie truly racist?

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The editor at Harper's who received the reader's complaint wrote back saying it was "unbelievable" to her that not a single person at Harper's ever noticed, for almost 20 years, that the sentence appeared to imply that Native Americans were not people, according to a 2007 biography of Wilder by Pamela Smith Hill.

Until her death in 1957 she was beloved for the semi-autobiographical "Little House" children's books, fictionalised versions of her family's adventures travelling the western frontier in their covered wagon and its encounters with Native Americans. But let's just take a minute to remember the terrible way Wilder described the Native Americans her family encountered.

Still, Caroline Fraser, author of Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, argued that the racial insensitivity in Wilder's book shouldn't mean that children shouldn't read it.

Perhaps this worldview could be more easily dismissed if it were entirely fictional, but the "Little House" books are semi-autobiographical, and recount Wilder's own childhood growing up on the Great Plains.

In its letter to the ALSC, the LIWLRA noted that "no human is untarnished", and stressed that Wilder deserves continued recognition for supporting libraries and educational initiatives across America, and for representing "the ability of an individual to not only overcome a hard past and upbringing, but also to tell the story of those obstacles so that future generations may grow and learn". "For decades, her legacy has been awash in sentimentality, but every American ... should learn the harsh history behind her work".

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