Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2012


This essay examines a rare early twentieth-century children’s story about and geared towards African Americans: “The Black Fairy” by Fenton Johnson. “The Black Fairy” was published in The Upward Path (1920), an anthology designed as a “Reader for Colored Children” that contained poetry, essays, short stories, folklore, biographical sketches, and drawings by prominent African American writers, educators, and other personalities of the time. Through a four -part analysis, including how the story fits into literary history, the ways in which the story responds to its historical and cultural context, the “cultural work” of the text, and an exploration of the way that the culture regarded children, the essay shows how this fantasy story helped children of this era to understand the history of slavery and encouraged feelings of brotherly love among all races.


A research paper completed for English 4710. This is an advanced undergraduate course focused on the study of a particular genre and its ability to articulate meaning in historical, social, and/or literary contexts. This paper is part of the Children's Literature genre series.