Sunday, September 18, 2011

Black Female Lead Characters

It seems like black people are always the cool sidekick to the white hero.  

My little sister and I used to love watching Walker Texas Ranger (yep, good old Chuck Norris).   But we loved watching Walker's sidekick Trivett, a handsome black man, the most.    However, Walker was always the center of the fights (and victories), and Trivett would usually kick a little rear in the background, or get injured only to have Walker save the day and return to Trivett to help.  

As an adult I began to grasp how black people are underrepresented in books, movies, television shows, advertisements, greeting cards, toys, and much more.   Though there has been progress, such as Tyler Perry's popular films and television shows starring many black actors, there's much to be desired.

My daughters need to know that black girls can be "stars," and let's not limit them to Princess Tiana.  It seems white little girls have limitless options of characters who look like them (and dolls, and other toys, and on clothing items, and greeting cards with white faces, and advertisements, and and and....).     

I've been researching book series and movies that feature black girls (who are strong, lead characters).   I discovered Shanna, though many of the books seem to be out of print.   There's also Grace.     There's also a series for grade-school girls called the Sugar Plum Ballerinas.    I love Fancy Nancy books (so cute and fun!), but Nancy's best friend, Bree, a black little girl, is always the sidekick and never the star. 

I find plenty of books featuring AA kids, though they aren't always the main character and rarely does the book move into a series where my girls can see a little black girl progress in various situations.    

I hope a successful children's book author (many, actually) will produce a series of books featuring a young, black, lead female character.  And I hope we will step up and support these authors by purchasing their books.   

The publishing industry is much like any other business---it comes down to supply and demand.   If we, as consumers, clearly convey our desires (with feedback to companies and by "voting" with our dollars), there will be an increased supply.   

If you know of more black female characters, please share!  



  1. There are also the Ruby books by Derrick Barnes, but those may be too old for your daughters just yet. I like the traditional African versions of fairy tales, like Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters (Cinderella), The Princess & The Pea by Rachel Isadora, Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. You can also go old school with Virginia Hamilton books (she was a black author married to a white man, they wrote one of the first children's books that featured an interracial couple & their biracial kids). Spike Lee & Tonya Lee have written some great kids books (Please baby please, Please puppy please, etc). You should also check out who wins the Coretta Scott King book awards each year for some fantastic titles, as well as ask your local librarian for help!

  2. One picture book your girls might enjoy is The Girl Who Wore Snakes. When they're a bit older, the picture book The Other Side helps explain how black and white kids used to not be allowed to play together, from a little black girl's point of view.
    Also, you should try to find the movie Polly. It's a remake of Pollyanna from probably the 1980s starring the little girl from the Cosby show and Phylicia Rhashad. It's a musical, and I loved it as a child.

  3. We have Jada Pinkett-Smith's book, Girls Hold Up this World. We read this one at least once a week. It has wonderful photo's of all different shades of brown girls, and brown women.

    "We girls hold up this world with a strength that's all our own. We'll see the different ways one day when we are grown."

    I agree that there just isn't enough out there for our little ladies.

  4. I always remember the American Girl books, my favorite girl was African American- I think her name was Addy? They were historical books, and I cannot guarantee at all the accuracy of them, but she was the main character. There was a doll too, although I know I always wanted one but they were a bajillion dollars.


  5. There is a great book for when the girls are a little older called Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio. It is not a series but an amazing book not only with an aa girl as the main character but also a girl dreaming to be president. I can't wait to read it to my son one day (he is aa and 7 months old). I read it to my Kindergarten class (taking out some details so it is at their level of elections) and it is fabulous!

  6. Check out this list on Amazon:


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