The New Brownies’ Book, written by Dr. Karida Brown and Charly Palmer, is an ode to Black culture, accomplishments, and artistry. Labeled as a “A Love Letter to Black Families,” The New Brownies’ Book covers a wide range of topics, including family ties, real life heroes, and facing mortality. The book is an homage to its twentieth century predecessor, The Brownies Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun.
The Brownies’ Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun
The Brownies’ Book: A Monthly Magazine for Children of the Sun, was first issued in 1920 and co-founded by Augustus Granville Dill and W.E.B. Du Bois. The periodical aimed to teach children from age six to sixteen the following:
- The beauty of being a person of color
- Societal contributions from people of color
- Current societal issues
- Literary and artistic happiness
The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families
The New Brownies’ Book is a montage of poetry, articles, fictional short stories, and brief memoirs. Photos from the 1920’s The Brownies’ Book and dozens of original, thought-provoking artworks (acrylic and mixed media) are scattered within the pages. There are ten chapters to the Brownie book and each section captures a different facet of Black culture. Six of these chapters intrigued me the most.
The first chapter, “Family Ties,” is filled with children’s stories. There are also anecdotes about lost fathers, and poems detailing a parent’s devotion to their children. “Family Ties” gives prominence to our mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents, and others who raised us with love.
The second chapter includes my favorite article, “A Love Letter for You,” by Halima Taha. The letter is from a mother to her daughter, emphasizing the importance of maintaining strength through adversity and being true to oneself. It speaks not only to women of color but to women in general. It is a reminder that in spite of the perils in our journey to adulthood, our essence and who we are at our core can never be fractured. We are free to be whomever we choose and allow the humdrum noise of naysayers to whittle down to no more than incoherent whispers.
Poetry fans will enjoy the chapter dedicated to Langston Hughes’ early work. Before Hughes’s poems revealed the hardship of the Black working class, he composed poetry about nature, springtime happiness, the awe of autumn leaves and whimsical fairies. His plays and travel articles are also expressed.
“School Daze” is a chapter that highlights the benefits of education, with a nod to the author’s alma mater, Fisk University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). The author explains the background behind the HBCUs and points to several famous alumni that have attended them: Oprah Winfrey, Spike Lee, and Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) to name a few. Several articles detail Fisk University’s history and how its alumni have graduated to scientists, activists, etc. Current Fisk students explain life at the college and their aspirations to carry on the Fisk legacy.
“She’Roes” is a chapter thanking women of color for their positive contributions to people of color through art, science, politics, literature, and sports. Their images are sketches with mini bios that feature each of their life achievements.
The New Brownies’ Book is a peek into a culture that pushes beyond Black stereotypes. It reminds us of their struggles and celebrates their successes all while magnifying their creative artistry. As a woman of color, I appreciated the fact that a periodical from over a hundred years ago was created to showcase our talents as a people and to emphasize to our children that in the face of strong oppression, we will persevere.
I recommend The New Brownies’ Book for anyone looking to peek inside a culture that continues to rise, despite all the racism from a century ago which sadly persist today. Its lessons and education about Black culture and excellence, intended originally for children, will apply to adults as well, regardless of race, color, or creed.
The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families retails for $40 and is available at your local bookstores or on Amazon.