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The Little Black Sambo exhibit showcases the many adaptations of Helen Bannerman’s beloved–and highly controversial–children’s book, The Story of Little Black Sambo. Drawn primarily from the extensive collections of the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature, this project seeks to contextualize The Story of Little Black Sambo and its hundreds of adaptations, as well as the book’s larger impact on popular American culture.

This exhibit primarily draws from the extensive collections housed at the University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature. Our project seeks to inform educators, scholars, and interested members of the public about the complicated history of Helen Bannerman’s once beloved—and now highly controversial—picture book The Story of Little Black Sambo (1899), as well as the larger impact that it had on popular American culture.  Incorporating over 70 texts from the Baldwin, along with other examples, this exhibit contextualizes both Bannerman’s original book and its hundreds of adaptations alongside the larger shifts in the children’s literature field to  erase, sanitize, or suppress Little Black Sambo’s troubled genealogy. By analyzing the evolution of Little Black Sambo, it is our goal to correct the erasure of both Sambo’s past and, by extension, the larger history of racism in children’s literature. Thus, this website seeks to serve as a comprehensive reference of The Story of Little Black Sambo’s historical context in order to allow visitors to better understand the Sambo phenomenon that captured the hearts and minds of America’s children for nearly all of the 20th century.

Guide to the Little Black Sambo Exhibit

Browse the exhibit’s 96 items here.

Unfamiliar with Helen Bannerman’s Little Black SamboStart your journey here by reading an annotated copy of Little Black Sambo (annotation done by Exhibit creators).

Interested in learning more about Little Black Sambo? View our list of Additional Resources.