Enid Blyton legacy questioned as Blue Plate website updated
Enid Blyton’s legacy came under fire last week as the website linked to his blue plaque in Kingston was updated to recognize allegations of racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit in his work.
English heritage runs The London Blue Plate Program composed of over 900 commemorative plaques celebrating the connection between personalities and the buildings that shaped them, wherever they lived and worked.
The Blyton blue plaque was installed in 1997 on Hook Road, Chessington and reads “ENID BLYTON 1897-1968 Children’s writer lived here 1920-1924”.
The organization updated its web page attached to Blyton’s plate include a section titled “Racism in Blyton’s Work” in July 2020.
Although it is said that she is a beloved children’s author, particularly known for her series The Famous Five and The Seven Secrets, he now details the critiques during his life and after for specific works like The little black doll and The mystery that never existed.
He also acknowledges how Blyton was rejected by the Royal Mint in 2016 for commemoration of a new 50 pence coin due to his claims of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia and lack of literary merit.
The altered entry has divided many, with some saying on social media that their childhood is being undone by warriors awakened in a culture war.
A debate “Is it fair that Enid Blyton is canceled?” Was broadcast on the newly launched GB News and Dan Wooton wrote a column on the subject with #EnidBlyton trending on Twitter Wednesday.
In a poll by South West Londoner, the majority believed the prolific author was a product of his time rather than a racist children’s writer or an innocent beloved author.
A mother of two told South West Londoner: “English Heritage should have better things to do. Books are of their time and reading them did not produce racists!
Another mother of two and former editor of children’s books pointed out that the allegations of racism and even lack of literary merit and sexism in Blyton’s work are not new and that there has always been a snobbery of the part of the publishing establishment around its books.
They added, “Even though we don’t like this and the simplicity with which the books are written, they are still extremely popular and inspire children to read.
“For many people, Enid Blyton will be the first series of books they enjoyed as a child, but she had questionable opinions even then.
“His books like Little black doll and Noddy which are undeniably problematic are no longer published, at least not in their original form.
English Heritage has also added sections to websites related to other notable plaques, for example “Imperalism and War” for the Rudyard kipling Entrance.
Its plaque was erected in 1957 in Westminster and reads “RUDYARD KIPLING 1865-1936 poet and writer lived here 1889-1891”.
His webpage on English Heritage now includes the statement: “Today, Kipling’s political views, expressed through his then popular writings, have been widely criticized for their racist and imperialist sentiments.
A similar outcry occurred last year when Roald Dahl’s family quietly agreed apologies for his anti-Semitic views on the foundation’s website.
Further reassessments of the views and work of eminent figures have taken place across the country since statue of Edouard Colston be demolished for not recognizing his history of slave trade in Bristol, Statue of Winston Churchill being graffiti in Westminster during a Black Lives Matter protest for his xenophobic views, the debate surrounding the Cecil rhodes memorial statue removed from Oxford University and Jk rowling receive negative reactions for allegedly transphobic Tweets.
In a statement, English Heritage said: “Last year, English Heritage launched an ongoing online entry update program for each blue plaque recipient.
“Blue plaque recipients with updated entries include actor and playwright Noël Coward and social reformer Annie Besant.
“The entries on our website aim to provide a more complete picture of each person’s life, including aspects that people may find disturbing. “
English Heritage Conservation Director Anna Eavis said: “We have no plans to remove any of our blue plaques from London.
“On our website, we provide more information for each blue plaque so that people can find out more about the person behind the plaque.”
Photo credits: Picasa on Flickr via Wikimedia Commons