D.B. Dowd, Washington University in St. Louis; Gerald Early, Washington University in St. Louis; Amanda Gailey, University of Nebraska
Race and Children's Literature of the Gilded Age is a newly established digital edition that will include scans and transcriptions of illustrated children's literature — including novels and popular culture materials — published in the U.S. between 1865 and 1913, two dates which provide racially significant bookends to the Gilded age, the former representing the formation of Reconstruction and the latter the foundation of the NAACP. RCLGA will allow researchers to examine how this body of literature and illustrations helped construct notions of race and childhood during a pivotal period in U.S. history.
RCLGA is organized around particular authors' work. The first is Joel Chandler Harris, famous for his purportedly scholarly documentation of African American folk tales, and the project will eventually grow to encompass several more authors of racially interesting children's literature during the period. Editorial attention will be especially focused on illustrations, both because these occupy a central place in the universe of children's literature and because the period is a pivotal one for the commercial illustration trade. New technological means of low-cost reproduction made possible the mass distribution of illustrated work (in newspapers, books), and Gilded Age children's literature provides a view of the graphic vocabulary in development as the industry took flight.
Because of the controversial nature of these works and the variety of audiences the edition may draw, the editors plan to provide multiple methods of access to the editions. One track would be geared toward elementary schoolers and their teachers, another toward high schoolers, and one, of course, for scholarly readers, each with its own level and kind of editorial intervention.
The technical ambitions of the project are to publish an electronic scholarly edition with rich facilities for representing, searching, and reading the text, for exploring and studying images of the books themselves, and for providing a coherent project interface that will serve each of the intended audiences.