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

Tanya Edwards

The board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, made the unanimous decision to remove the name of author Laura Ingalls Wilder from a major children’s book award at a meeting in New Orleans on Saturday.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. (Photo: Getty Images)

The name of the prize has been changed from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the Guardian reports.

The association, which took the vote at its board meeting in New Orleans, said the vote “was greeted by a standing ovation by the audience in attendance,” Fox News reports.

Wilder is best known for her beloved Little House on the Prairie novels, which the ALSC has stated “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values” based on Wilder’s portrayal of black people and Native Americans.

The first award was given to Wilder in 1954. The ALSC, which is based in Chicago, says her work continues to be published and read but her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced.”

In February, the ALA announced that it was reconsidering the name of the Wilder Award. At the time, the ALA declared that her legacy put the group in the position of serving children’s reading and education while being unable to model values of “inclusiveness, integrity and respect.” Wilder’s books, it stated, “reflect racist and anti-Native sentiments and are not universally embraced.”

Wilder was born in 1867 and died in 1957. Her most famous novel, Little House on the Prairie (1935), has inspired almost as much disapproval as devotion. The novel has racist elements, and its portrayal of Native Americans has had consequences when read uncritically in schools. In the late 1990s, scholar Waziyatawin Angela Cavender Wilson approached the Yellow Medicine East School District after her daughter came home crying because of a line in the book, first attributed to Gen. Philip Sheridan but a common saying by that time: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

However, in her own lifetime Wilder apologized for some of her thoughtlessness, and amended a line in Little House that read Kansas had “no people, only Indians.” It now reads, “no settlers, only Indians.”

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