Enid Blyton blue plaque bio by English Heritage includes ‘racist and xenophobic’ criticism
Written by Hitmix News on 17 June 2021
The work of Enid Blyton has been linked to “racism and xenophobia” in updated blue plaque information by English Heritage.
The charity’s blue plaque scheme, which has seen more than 950 commemorative plaques placed in and around London, shows visitors where important people in history have lived and worked.
Blyton’s has been placed at her former home, 207 Hook Road in Chessington, where she started to develop her storytelling skills – and went on to write works including The Famous Five novels and The Secret Seven series.
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the organisation said last June that it would be “contributing” to a review by the Mayor of London’s Commission for Diversity, looking at the historical figures that had been commemorated as part of its blue plaque scheme.
Now, when visitors use the organisation’s app or visit its website they will be given details of how the late author’s work has been criticised during her lifetime and after for its “racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit”.
The information goes on to explain how an article in The Guardian in 1966 noted the racism of her book, The Little Black Doll. The children’s short story tells the tale of a doll named “Sambo” who is only accepted by his owner once his “ugly black face” is washed “clean” by the rain.
The information also cites Blyton’s publisher Macmillan in 1960 refusing to publish her story The Mystery That Never Was for what it called its “faint but unattractive touch of old-fashioned xenophobia”.
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It also points to the Royal Mint’s decision in 2016 to turn down Blyton for commemoration on a 50p coin because, the advisory committee minutes record, she was “a racist, sexist, homophobe and not a very well-regarded writer”.
English Heritage does however note that “others have argued that while these charges can’t be dismissed, her work still played a vital role in encouraging a generation of children to read”.
Anna Eavis, curatorial director at English Heritage, said: “We have no plans whatsoever to remove any of our London blue plaques.
“On our website, we are providing more information for each blue plaque so that people can find out more about the person behind the plaque.”
Enid Blyton published about 700 books with worldwide sales of more than 200 million but was best known for her Secret Seven series, the Famous Five, The Faraway Tree and Noddy.
She died at the age of 71 in 1968.