The book: Our Gang: A Racial History of the Little Rascals tells the story of Our Gang, later known as The Little Rascals, a television series that portrayed interracial friendships during a time of racial tension in America. Produced first as silent shorts in the 1920s and transitioning to television in the 1950s, Our Gang was progressive for its time, but still promoted many stereotypes. Author Julia Lee ’98 focuses on the personal history of four of the show’s stars as they navigated the changing and often contradiction-filled racial landscape of America.
The author: Lee, a professor at the University of Nevada, specializes in African American literature. Her first book was The American Slave Narrative and the Victorian Novel.Opening lines: “Some said he was discovered in ‘Nigger town’ in Los Angeles by director Bob McGowan. Looking for someone to succeed Ernie ‘Sunshine Sammy’ Morrison, the first black star of ‘Our Gang,’ McGowan found Farina playing marbles in the street ‘with some of his “cullud” pals.’ The boy was wearing a romper suit, and his hair was in pigtails. McGowan couldn’t tell whether he was a boy or a girl. He thought maybe this would bring a ‘touch of mystery to the gang’ and offered him a contract on the spot.”
Reviews: The Atlantic calls Our Gang an “agile and insightful cultural history.” LA Weekly says it is “not one of those academically written film books clogged with jargon, but a fully fleshed-out and colorful pop-culture history.”