We are in the midst of the first week of Black History Month. How are you honoring the black community? Publishing giant, Penguin Random House, and booksellers, Barnes & Noble, decided it would be a genius idea to celebrate Black History Month by redesigning the book covers of some of the most beloved literary novels of all-time and putting them on the cover. So, instead of a white Romeo & Juliet, the new covers have black portrayals of this Shakespeare classic. But the story is still the same. Meaning, the covers may have black people, but the classic remains white. People were not too happy about that.
While the inclusion of black people on the covers may seem kind of nice, people on social media said if publishers genuinely want to honor the black community, the stories should include black characters as well. Furthermore, others noted that Barnes & Noble should celebrate Black History Month by featuring books written by black writers.
Another version of literary blackface….eye… https://t.co/uF1u8uEfv8
— LL McKinney (@ElleOnWords) February 5, 2020
Author Bethany C. Morrow tweeted, “This…feels like a fail. You put me on the cover to make a buck, but I’m not in the pages? Promote INCLUSIVITY instead and back non-white authors, howbowdah.” She added, “Barnes & Noble was like, well, if Netflix can change the thumbnail to show the Black extra in the background of a show they want you to watch…”Barnes & Noble was like, well, if Netflix can change the thumbnail to show the Black extra in the background of a show they want you to watch…”
Some of the newly designed book covers in honor of Black History Month include Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, Three Musketeers, Moby Dick, The Secret Garden, The Count of Monte Cristo, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Emma, the Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and Frankenstein.
Hire the PoC artists who did these covers to illo books actually coming out in 2020, & sell more books by diverse authors. If you want a cool diverse Wizard of Oz, you can make a cool, cute poster of it, or commission the PoC writers who I am sure are working on that very concept
— ConStar, Hufflestunting Into #BlackWizardHistory (@ConStar24) February 5, 2020
Writer Kendra James also tweeted, “Um. Just… Promote… Diverse… Authors… In… Your… Stores???????????” Another writer that goes by Sammie on Twitter stated, “All I’m saying is they missed an opportunity here. This is Fifth Avenue. As in NYC. As in … the Harlem Renaissance? Instead of redoing classics by white authors, promote authors like: Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Sterling A. Brown.”
“Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.” ―Lorraine Hansberry
— Penguin Random House 🐧🏠📚 (@penguinrandom) February 1, 2020
The publishers have yet to comment on the criticism over their new covers. However, both Penguin Random House and Barnes & Noble have been tweeted out more book selections, but this time they’re featuring black writers.