“Robin Bernstein’s Racial Innocence offers an impressively rich and thorough analysis of late nineteenth- to mid-twentieth-century materials related to childhood, illustrating the means through which black children were systematically excluded from being categorized as innocent. Relying on personal accounts, archival records, historical documents, toys, and other articles with which children played, she then illustrates how, through their own forms of play and performance, black children effectively resisted this systematic negative scripting and assaults upon their childhood and humanity. Most noteworthy is the way that Bernstein pieces together layer upon layer of evidence from multiple sources--written documents, accounts of performances, musical scores, sales records from toy companies, and documented interviews with descendants of slaves--to make a convincing argument that runs counter to how Americans have historically thought about black children and their play. . . . Racial Innocence not only offers a new perspective on an important era in African American history and children’s literature history; it is so well written and well researched that it offers a riveting read for any scholar interested in the subject. Bernstein’s research is informed by major resources as well as obscure documents and records that would have been easy to overlook, but which add a wealth of support to her argument. Any reader who ingests Racial Innocence will look at this historical era with different eyes, and I, for one, will never see Raggedy Ann and Andy in quite the same way.” Michelle H. Martin, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 38.1 (Spring 2013): 96-101.
Michelle H. Martin is the distinguished author of Brown Gold: Milestones in African American Children's Picture Books, 1845-2002, which provides a superb analytical overview of the subject. I'm honored that Professor Martin has reviewed my book, which I always envisioned as forming a dialogue with her own.