Talk:Little Black Sambo

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Thanks for finding that vandalism. It had been here for 11 months! DanH 21:44, 1 April 2008 (EDT)

Give EdBot the credit--"he" changed it, then I saw it whilst cruising recent changes.--RossC 22:18, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
"Although the book doesn't contain any racial overtones, it has been known as a controversial book due to the original illustrations in early european and american editions which gave the character an african look. In reality, this popular fairy tale is about a young boy in India and his adventures." [1] --Ed Poor Talk 22:39, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
Well, the cover of the book seems like a stereotypical caricature of a black person with thick lips, so I could see how that could be considered controversial. DanH 22:45, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
If you mean "objectionable", then I understand. Around two decades ago, any stereotypical representation of blacks was pounced upon as being de jure "racist", regardless of the actual meaning of the content.
By the way, racial differences in appearance are real. Whites have thin lips and big noses, and blacks have thick lips and squashed noses, relatively. What of it? --Ed Poor Talk 22:53, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
I can't say for sure, because I admittedly haven't read the book. I've only heard it discussed in one of my anthropology classes as an example of racism and that, besides looking at the cover here on CP, is the extent of what I know about it. DanH 23:04, 1 April 2008 (EDT)
If I remember correctly, the original story itself was not particularly racial (though the illustrations were). However, its popularity spawned a large number of knockoffs and copycats that were decidedly so, and the book became emblematic of racial insensitivity. Plus, the name "Sambo" itself became a racial epithet for blacks.--RossC 00:04, 2 April 2008 (EDT)
  • Ross, see the section below. --₮K/Talk 00:55, 2 April 2008 (EDT)
I did. I think it's a mistake to put the saga of the restaurant change in this article (it confuses and complicates the topic unnecessarily); maybe it could be a part a separate article on racial imagery or something.

Please help write the article or articles. Whether they are put on the same page or on separate pages is immaterial to me. --JJJ

Ha! That's an atom bomb I don't want to handle. But I'll make a minor change or two to help clarify the issue.--RossC 09:13, 2 April 2008 (EDT)

"Sambo's" Restaurants

This is an adaptation from the ORIGINAL Children's Story called ' Little Black Sambo' by Helen Bannerman (circa 1899), a Scottish woman, who lived and worked in India. It is about a little boy who goes into the jungle and loses his clothing to bullying tigers. The illustrations shown, are from the original published work. (1921).

Some would have you think this is about a small African-American boy, but the reality is it takes place in India (after all Africa/America doesn't have any native species of Tiger and India calls their butter 'GHI" as it is pointed out in this original story. Unfortunately, some would want you to believe this endearing story makes fun of others or in their words, is "racist" - it simply isn't.

It's about a young boy, growing up in India with his two loving and very hard working parents and the day he embarked on an adventure in the Indian Jungle - where upon he came across some very hungry and intimidating tigers...

This story has a relationship with both Sam and Bo as a marketing strategy that for a long time worked very well, as across America, every Sambo's had murals of this classic adventure on their restaurant walls and menus - However, this story is NOT how Sambo's, the pancake place, got it name.

The marketing strategy was obvious: Sam and Bo opened Sambo's and pancakes were one of the restaurant's specialties; however some adults forgot that this is indeed a "CHILDREN's Story" and tried to make it something it wasn't.

While this story has charmed generations, current publishers have decided to avoid any sense of perceived negative connotations by reissuing the ORIGINAL storybook with a new title: "The Story of Little Babaji."

The boy, his mother and father are given authentic Indian names -- Babaji, Mamaji, Dadaji -- and the illustrations are emphatically Indian.

Regardless of the version you prefer, the story is the same and we invite you to rediscover your youth and listen to or read aloud this uplifting tale about a boy, his family, some tigers and best of all, pancakes...


When I first read this story, it made me think two good 'conservative' things: First, that children in other countries like India could be prosperous, clever and brave - same as American children. Second, that dark-skinned people are just as worthy and important and interesting as white people.
When I read it for the first time, I was in the second grade and had never yet encountered any tale (fiction or history or legend) about heroism or adventures undertaken by anyone other than white people. So I feel that it expanded my ethnic consciousness.
Written 121 years ago when India was under British colonial rule, it incorporated one Western element: an English-style rain umbrella. That set the tone for me to believe in the mixing of cultures, which indirectly set me on the track to be accepting of people from other cultures in my own life.
I do not understand how the title Little Black Sambo became objectionable to black nationalists or civil rights leaders or how anyone can call the story racist. Is the word "black" the problem? Is someone offended that a white person would call an Indian boy "black" instead of "brown"? (This was in an era when nigger was not yet a taboo word, but the title doesn't use that n-word.)
Is the problem that the illustrations make out the Indian boy to look like an American Negro, with thick lips? I don't think anyone is protesting the blurring of the distinction between Indian and African, but rather the portrayal of any visual stereotype of black people. For example, calling someone's hair "nappy" is now considered an insult.
Along the same lines, Mark Twain's classic tale Huckleberry Finn has been denounced as "racist" for using the word nigger over 900 times. (And also for the hero's apparent acceptance of slavery.) Yet the PLOT of the story is about a white boy who helps a black man avoid being "sold south" and who comes to a poignant and heartfelt realization of the black man's humanity (read the storm-on-the-raft scene again).
While we all hate racism here, we must also be careful not to make (or pass on) false accusations of racism. The book uses a title which has become objectionable to some activists, along with imagery which (some say?) perpetuates objectionable stereotypes. Okay, then let's give the names and arguments of the people who object. --Ed Poor Talk 06:39, 2 April 2008 (EDT)