Back in the day, when i was a young teen in middle school and the internet was not exactly a thing so there are no records (so you’ll have to believe me), I had a copy of a black fairy tale by Fred Crump, Jr. I got Cinderella in fifth grade:
I got it at the Houston International Festival. I got it before any others because it was my favorite fairy tale ever–I still have a major Cinderella obsession. I was so proud of it, I paid the money for it myself out of anything else I could have gotten in the Africa section. Because Book! Princess! BLACK REPRESENTATION SHE LOOKS LIKE ME I CAN BE A PRINCESS TOO.
I carried it to school to show my classmates soon after, but they said it wasn’t the real Cinderella like the Disney movie and kept asking why there were no white people in the story and why Cinderella had blue eyes, because black people could never have blue eyes. Then a teacher who saw me with it started mocking the illustrations and calling Cinderella’s natural hair all tangled up and making jokes about Whitney Houston and “a prince named Prince” and I stopped showing anyone at school, so there was that fun aside.
Anyways, forward to middle school where I now had a grand collection of two books–this one and The Ebony Ducking:
But because I was poor, I had no idea if I’d ever be able to get the others. So I decided I’d write them myself, and I’d start with my other favorite fairy tale, Snow White which wasn’t even listened in the back among Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel and Afrotina and the Three Bears.
(which, bee tee dubs, did not end with Afrotina just running the fuck off, spoiler the bears are like “fix this shit or we’ll eat you” and her parents help her fix that shit and she makes it up cause pretty is as pretty does)
So I started out and said that she had skin as rich as chocolate and hair black as ebony and lips red as roses and started to sketch her out, cause I was going to write my little 13 year old heart the entire fuck out.
And then a classmate saw me and asked who it was, and I told her.
And she screeched her entire head off that I was drawing it wrong.
I was doing it wrong because “OMG CAN’T YOU READ HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN THE MOVIE THE TEXT IS ‘SKIN WHITE AS SNOW LIPS RED AS BLOOD HAIR AS BLACK AS EBONY’ YOU CAN’T REDO THE STORY WITH A BLACK GIRL WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING YOU WEIRD LITTLE BLACK CHILD YOU THERE ARE STANDARDS”
And she pointed this out to a whole bunch of kids, and a bunch of people said I was so doing it wrong, so I was so ashamed of this that I stopped and never finished that story.
I later got every book listed in the back of my Cinderella book and some obscure ones like The Little Mermaid, but don’t worry, I am going somewhere with this.
Cause Mattel has started a spin off of Monster High called Ever After High, and instead of doing the children of monsters we’re doing the children of Fairy Tale Characters
So one of the first to come out was Apple White
She’s the very blond daughter of Snow White. So we’re doing that now.
But my black kiddy self was doing it wrong, because any change from the original narrative is doing it wrong.
and that wasn’t about race it was just about preserving the story, let someone tell it to me.
And that is a story about fairy tales and little black children and doll collecting.