British Academic Accuses Beloved Children’s Book Author Of Cultural Appropriation

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Alyssa Blakemore Contributor
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Famed British children’s book author Beatrix Potter is accused of cultural appropriation by a UK lecturer who claims she stole from African slave tales.

An expert in folktales and postcolonial literature, Dr. Emily Zobel Marshall asserts in a May 19 essay for The Conversation that there are similarities between Potter’s stories and the pre-colonial African tales of Brer Rabbit. To support her allegations, she points to a biography of Potter that details the English author’s early exposure to Brer Rabbit stories.

Potter, who died in 1943, authored the well-known Tale of Peter Rabbit and other children’s stories. Marshall calls on readers and fellow scholars to change the narrative surrounding Potter and her famed works because the children’s author’s failure to divulge her inspiration from African folklore.

The plots, language, and characters in Potter’s works were “more than just inspired by these folktales” and “owe a debt to the Brer Rabbit stories told by enslaved Africans working on American plantations that needs to be fully acknowledged,” Marshall states.

Language like “puddle duck,” “lickety-split,” and “cotton tail,” aren’t in fact British at all, Zobel Marshall claims. The Leeds Beckett University lecturer instead accuses Peter Rabbit’s creator of ripping off the terms used in her stories from African American vernacular. (RELATED: Chicago Public Library Will Remove Six Dr. Seuss Books Deemed ‘Racist’ From Shelves)

“Potter’s actions in shielding the reading public from her sources have fed into a damaging and reoccurring appropriation of black cultural forms that continues today,” Marshall concludes.