Red Man, White Man, African Chief: The Story of Skin Color
Marguerite Rush Lerner, M.D. ~ illustrated by George Overlie
Lerner Publications, 1960
Day one in Indiana and my son was gifted with the H1N1 virus. Awesome, no? So, needless to say, we never did make it into any thrift/antique/book shops. As I was busy care taking yet still having massive withdrawals from vintage book looking, I crossed my fingers and sent my unskilled husband out to peruse a library sale back at home. He scored a handful of books and actually got one or two that I really like. Including this one, part of the "Medical Books for Children and Young People" series. Who'd have thought the 60s would've created a relatively PC book about skin color without making any major missteps? If this is a topic you'd like to broach with your children, Red Man, White Man, African Chief is a fine place to begin. (Plus, the drawings are super cool, too!)
All living things have color: plants, animals, people. The stuff that color is made of is called pigment. Paints are a form of pigment. The yellow color of the buttercup comes from pigment, xanthphyll (ZAN-tha-fil). Dandelions contain xanthphyll, and so do the leaves that turn yellow in autumn.
Carotene and chlorophyll are discussed. Carbon and hemoglobin. How the zebra gets his stripes and the leopards gets his spots. Right to melanin and how different people are different colors... dispelling stereotypes... the Indian is not red and people from China definitely don't have yellow skin. Explaining away bigotry and racism as composed by the biochemistry of our skin. In today's open society, the notion almost seems quaint... Almost.
Pretty great concept though, once again proving that the best medicine for ignorance is education.