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Elizabeth Nesbitt Collection @ Pitt: Post-Civil War (until 1965)

This guide identifies some of the 12,000+ resources available in the Nesbitt Collection. Comprised of children's literature and material related to the history of children and their books, collection items date from the 1600's through the present.

With the end of the Civil War came an increase in education and black child reader's exposure to literature. As black children read in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, they found few books that depicted black characters in a positive light.

Topsy. New York: McLoughlin Bros., 1896




This small shapebook follows young Topsy (a character name borrowed from the popular Uncle Tom's Cabin) through some daily adventures. Colorful illustrations accompany rhyming text. The dialog of Topsy and her friends is predominantly stereotyped black dialect.

PZ8.3 .T6 1896 Hillman Special Collections

Pore Lil Mose: His Letters to His Mammy. Outcault, Richard Felton. Brooklyn, N.Y: Grand Union Tea Co, 1902.

The Pore Lil Mose comic strip was created by Richard Outcault, the inventor of modern comic strips. Pore Lil Mose debuted in 1902 in the New York Herald as the first black comic strip. This compilation of full page comics features a variety of adventures of a 7 year old character. Wildly illustrated with multiple scenes per page, each rhymed story is about a paragraph in length and includes dialect and stereotypes.

PN6728.P6 O85 Hillman Special Collections

Little Black Sambo. Bannerman, Helen, and Eulalie. New York: Platt & Munk Co., Inc, 1926.


Little Black Sambo gets many new colorful clothes. Walking to school one day, multiple tigers see him and threaten to eat him. He outwits the tigers by offering all his new clothes to each one by one, causing the animals to fight over them in the end. This post-Civil War children's book continues to have impact, though written with characters for a colonial British audience, as the term "Sambo" has become derogatory. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

PZ7.B227 Hillman Special Collections

Tommy Traveler in the World of Black History. Feelings, Tom. 1st ed. New York, N.Y.: Black Butterfly Children's Books, 1991 (originally published in the 1950s)

Despite the 1991 publication date, these comics originally ran in the Black World/Negro Digest newspaper in 1972. Tommy is unable to find books about black history at his library and learns of a black professor who has an entire collection of books about black history. Tommy has to read the books and later dreams that he is part of the journeys of influential black figures.

E185.F4 Hillman Special Collections

The Story of Little Black Mingo. Bannerman, Helen. London: Chatto & Windus


The story of Little Black Mingo was originally published in 1901 and is written in short sentences with simple, colorful, illustrations. Little Black Mingo is sent by her mean caretaker, Black Noggy, to get water in a large ceramic chatty. When a crocodile brings Little Black Mingo to shatter the chatty, Black Noggy is angry and sends her away with a bigger one to fetch water. After an adventure with a mongoose, Little Black Mingo outsmarts both her mean caretaker and the crocodile.

d PZ7 B227Lm Hillman Special Collections