Respected Black Writer Dies

Respected Black Writer Dies

Published December 15, 2008

Posted Dec. 14, 2008 – Dorothy Sterling, known for her ability to engage young readers with her intriguing stories of African-American historical figures, died earlier this month at her home in Wellfleet, Mass. She was 95.

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Among her most well known books are “Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman,” which was published in 1954 and is still in print;  "Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls" (1958), the first children's biography of the slave who captured a Confederate gunboat during the Civil War; and "The Making of an Afro-American: Martin Robinson Delany" (1971), which helped stir interest in the little-known abolitionist, Harvard-educated physician and early proponent of Black nationalism.

Sterling "was a major figure in the development of 20th-century children's literature because she was one of the first people to insist upon the representation of African Americans in that literature," Julia Mickenberg, an American studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Los Angeles Times.

The paper reports that in the mid-1960s, “Sterling testified before a congressional committee headed by Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (D-N.Y.) on racial bias in textbooks and helped form the Council on Interracial Books for Children, which worked to improve the portrayal of minorities in children's books.”

Written by BET-Staff


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