Tobe: A Critical Edition

New Views on a Children's Classic

Edited by Benjamin Filene

Original text by Stella Gentry Sharpe, Photographs by Charles A. Farrell

184 pp., 7 x 10, 86 halftones, notes

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5417-1
    Published: October 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5416-4
    Published: October 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4353-1
    Published: September 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5418-8
    Published: September 2019

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When UNC Press published Stella Gentry Sharpe's Tobe in 1939, it was hailed as one of the first children's books to offer a dignified portrayal of an African American child and his family. Today, the power of Tobe lies as much in the questions it raises: Whose story gets told? Who gets to tell it? How do stories shape how we see ourselves and each other?

This volume reproduces the original volume's text and images, places the book in the context of its time, and offers thought-provoking ways to read Tobe with fresh eyes. Benjamin Filene explores the book as a story told in words, as a world constructed through photographs, as a chapter in the history of juvenile literature, and (through interviews with the people photographed and their descendants) as a window into community memory. Encouraging close readings and second looks, Filene presents a project kit for exploring a historical text, yielding surprising insights. This new edition of a children's classic opens up questions of race, voice, and power in ways that encourage fruitful conversation and resist easy answers.

About the Authors

Benjamin Filene is chief curator at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. Previously he served as director of public history at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and senior exhibit developer at the Minnesota Historical Society. Filene is author of Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music and co-editor of Letting Go? Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. He received his Ph.D. in American studies from Yale.
For more information about Benjamin Filene, visit the Author Page.

Stella Gentry Sharpe (1891-1978) was an author of children's books, including Tobe and Tildy, and an elementary school teacher in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
For more information about Stella Gentry Sharpe, visit the Author Page.


"Filene is juggling important questions about race and representation, and he succeeds in opening up our understanding of the stakes of Tobe for children's literature, representations of the South, and African American communities. This new edition makes a strong contribution and brings a forgotten classic back to life."--Katharine Capshaw, University of Connecticut