16 July 2014

Beaufort District's Literary History - Means

Although special local history collections and archives cannot always contribute to Summer Reading Programs, this year's theme, Literary Elements, allows us to share some of our literary treasures. If you drop by the Research Room before this Friday, you can see our display and check off an activity on the official Adult Summer Reading Program guide in one fell swoop.  We have books from all periods of Beaufort's long and distinguished literary history on exhibit, including one of the first novels about African American life on the sea islands.

Florence Crannell Means was one of the first writers of multicultural books for children and teens.  Her goal was to promote racial equality among those who's opinions were in the process of formation by writing empathetically about the conditions faced by American minorities: African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Japanese Americans.      

Shuttered Windows is the story of a 16 year old African American girl from Minneapolis who relocates to the sea islands off "Bosquet" (Beaufort, SC) where she experiences culture shock. She learns to adjust to the Gullah way of life and dedicates herself to return to "Bosquet" as a teacher after additional schooling.  This volume is dedicated to Mather School, a private school founded by Rachel Mather in 1867 and supported for almost a 100 years by the American Baptist Home Mission Society. (The Technical College of the Lowcountry is located on the site of the former Mather School.)

While some may take issue with the dialect in Shuttered Windows (1938) and Great Day in the Morning (1946), her characterizations of strong-willed and powerful female protagonists withstand the passage of time. Her novel The Moved-Outers about a California based Japanese American family forced into an internment camp during World War II was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1946.  Means is credited with "bringing an early social conscience to children's literature." [Anita Silvey, ed. (1995). Children's books and their creators].   

Means died in Boulder, Colorado in 1980.

Please note: Image of Means is from Something about the author (Commire, 1971, p. 154) cited on the Outstanding Women in Children's Librarianship website http://www.unc.edu/~bflorenc/libraryladies/means.html

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