Remember Dick and Jane? And remember Fun with Dick & Jane? These were the fictional children upon whom a generation of children in America learned to read.
But how about Johnnie Mae and Floyd? Or Clara, Rosa Lee and Harold?
These are children found in a series of books produced in 1938 as part of the Negro American Series and these are the children whose real lives are depicted in these supplementary readers. And these two books are among some of the historical "treasures" in my personal libary.
My mother managed to "rescue" these books from being destroyed when Howard Elementary School, was cleaning out old books, and had set aside several boxes of books to be thrown away. Knowing my love of books and appreciation of Black history, she saved them for me. And what a treasure they were! An entire community, a black community in Drumright, Oklahoma is depicted, and instead of drawings---they consist of the images of the children!
In addition, to the many children depicted who all attend Dunbar School, the life stories of well known figures such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Roland Hayes and the Fisk Jubilee Singers are told in these two books. The first chapters are directed towards beginning readers and the second half of each book focuses on more complex stories directed to more advance readers.
The story provides a wonderful glimpse into the lives of those who coped within a very segreated school system that is seldom seen. The pride and dignity of the parents is also reflected as the parents of the children are also pictured.
This treasure also reflects the impact that Jeanes teachers and supervisors had on the education of black children in the Deep South in the years of segregation. So much more can be learned by studying these text books. I have a strong interest in learning if any of the children captured might still living today and this becomes one of the many on-going projects that take up my time.