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'Little House on the Prairie' Author Laura Ingalls Wilder Name Removed From Literary Award

Little House on the Prairie
A scene from the pilot of Little House on the Prairie, from the book by Laura Ingalls Wilder |

Laura Ingalls Wilder's name is being removed from an American Library Association award due to how racial minorities, especially Native Americans, are portrayed in Little House on the Prairie.

In a unanimous vote that occurred Saturday, the children's division of the ALA moved to rename what was once known as the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. It will now be called the Children's Literature Legacy Award.

"This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder's legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness," the Association for Library Service to Children said in a statement.

The books of Ingalls Wilder are considered by many people to be American classics and are extremely popular, yet the characters words and attitudes about Indians and blacks were deemed unacceptable by modern standards.

The ALSC said earlier this year that it would be voting on whether to maintain Wilder's name on the award, and that her legacy was "complex." Wilder's handling of black and Native American characters, both how she referred to and characterized them in her works has been the main subject of contention.

Critics see the move as a yet another example of political correctness and an irresponsible erasure of important works of historical literature.

"Wilder's writing is now thought too dangerously inflammatory for modern children's sensibilities. We may be seeing stage one in the process of eliminating yet another children's classic, with the Little House on the Prairie books soon joining Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer and To Kill a Mocking Bird in the latest politically correct bonfire," theologian and American Thinker contributor Fay Voshell commented in an email to The Christian Post Monday.

Liberty University English professor Karen Swallow Prior, likewise, mused satirically on Instagram: "In other news, the ALA is removing all books from library shelves that express bigotry, ignorance, out dated ideas, half truths, quarter truths, questionable opinions, leechings, or contain references to slavery, torture, imperialism, wooden teeth, or blood pudding."

She explained that the authors society chooses to honor, whether by reading them or naming awards after them, hinge on the values that change with time.

Melissa Gilbert, the actress who portrayed a young Laura Ingalls in the hit television series "Little House on the Prairie" linked to a blog post titled "Historical Perspective or Racism in Little House on the Prairie" from the official Little House on the Prairie website on her Twitter feed, which suggested that the popular literature be used to explain racial issues.

"Reading Little House on the Prairie with children today requires explanation. I call them teachable moments. Before we begin to read the book in my classroom I take a few moments to talk about Wilder's real life and the historical accuracy of her books," Laura Mcelmore, a teacher and Ingalls Wilder fan from Kansas, explains in the blog.

She noted that during that time the white settlers, like the Ingalls family, all regarded the Indian tribes on the prairie with fear, as Pa and Ma Ingalls did the Osage in the book.

"How can we help children develop an understanding of the historical perspective in Little House on the Prairie? I suggest we talk about whether Ma's fears [of the Osage Indians] were justified. Ask if people have an unjustified fear of other races today. Does racism still exist and if so, is it found in every race?" she said.

The first Little House on the Prairie book was published in 1932 and was followed by seven novels about pioneer life in the west.

"Wilder was presented the first award in 1954, after which it was named for her and presented every five years between 1960 and 1980, every three years between 1980 and 2001, every two years between 2001 and 2015 and annually since then," the New York Daily News reported.

Follow Brandon Showalter on Facebook: BrandonMarkShowalter Follow Brandon Showalter on Twitter: @BrandonMShow

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