Exhibition at Historic Germantown. This exhibit tells the story behind the writing
of Marguerite de Angeli’s beloved book Bright April, published in 1946.
Bright April is a story about a young African-American girl named April who experiences racial
prejudice; it is also the story of her bright personality and her tenth birthday and the surprise it brought.
Bright April Illustrations by Marguerite de Angeli courtesy of Purple House Press
Published in 1946, Bright April was the first mainstream children’s book offering life lessons
about racial prejudice written by a white author. Though dated by today’s standards, the book’s message
of racial equality was a new – even radical idea for some people at the time. Newbery medal-winning
author/illustrator Marguerite de Angeli relied on a network of African American neighbors – teachers,
ministers, and leaders – to develop the story, characters and images in the book. Nellie Rathbone Bright,
community activist, civil-rights advocate, painter, author, poet, organizer and principal of Germantown’s
Joseph E. Hill School, was a primary source for de Angeli’s knowledge of the Black experience.
Her contribution was so essential that her last name became the family name of the title character.
Marguerite de Angeli was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books including the 1950 Newbery Award winning
book The Door in the Wall. She wrote and illustrated twenty-eight of her own books, and illustrated more than three dozen
books and numerous magazine stories and articles for other authors. De Angeli’s story, Bright April, was the first children’s
book to address the divisive issue of racial prejudice. The book won the Spring Book Festival. She was twice named a
Caldecott Honor Book illustrator, first in 1945 for Yonie Wondernose and again in 1955 for Book of Nursery and Mother
Goose Rhymes. [She once lived on Carpenter Lane in Germantown!]