Neighborhood books of Ezra Jack Keats as a racial project: depictions of children and families in urban environments
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Much of the research and writing about the neighborhood books of Ezra Jack Keats has centered on depictions of his character ‘Peter’ as a non-racial ‘every child,’ or on the role of play in his stories. This thesis analyzed Keats’s neighborhood books and his research for them within the context of race and class discourses of the 1960s and 1970s. This work used a racial literacy framework and drew on ideas about power inscribed in space and hierarchical representations in children’s picture books. This research found Keats’s neighborhood books and research materials function as a racial project by constructing a cultural memorial to the atmosphere of the great transformation (Omi & Winant, 1994) and to a systematically produced racialized and classed space (Hankins, et al, 2012). Findings indicate that future research is needed to consider spacial depictions of race and class in picture books, and that there is a need for place-based historical inquiry among elementary students.