Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Name Removed from Children’s Book Award Over Racism Concerns

This year’s American Library Association conference is wrapping up in New Orleans but on Saturday evening, in a committee meeting, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name was dropped from a major book award.

Wilder, who is best known and beloved for her “Little House on the Prairie” series painted a picture of life in America on the Great Plains during the 1800s. In recent years though, Wilder’s work has been criticized over racism concerns and her portrayal of Native Americans.

That criticism has come full circle as Wilder’s name will no longer be attached to the prestigious award.

Read ALA’s statement on the name change here:

This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,” the group said in a statement, adding all existing award pages will be changed to reflect the new name.

The award will now be called the “Children’s Literature Legacy Award.”

As a librarian (who is attending ALA at this moment), I am not shocked by this decision. However, I think it’s ridiculous to strip Wilder’s name from the award. Admittedly, I have not read the books as an adult but judging a work written in a much different time by today’s standards is just another form of “whitewashing” history.

It’s dangerous to try to re-write and cover up history. Wilder is not being banned (yet) but it’s possible that the same profession who is supposed to champion free thinking will begin clamoring for the removal of editions that haven’t been sanitized for today’s readers.

Orwell said it best in 1984:

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

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