“Homes Needed For 10,000 Brown Orphans,” 1948

Source: W.H. Slingerland, Child Welfare Work in Louisville:  A Study of Conditions, Agencies and Institutions (Louisville, KY: The Welfare League, 1919), 48.

The Colored Orphans' Home in Louisville, Kentucky, 1910s. Racially segregated private orphanages like this one were established after the Civil War, often by religious organizations like the American Missionary Society. By the early twentieth century, many were in terrible disrepair. The Louisville Home continued to care for children ages three to fifteen, sleeping three to a bed, because there there was literally nowhere else in the city for African-American children to go.

Source: Viola W. Bernard Papers, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Library, Columbia University

Publicity materials designed to recruit black parents for black children typically depicted smiling children and well-dressed parents in settings, such as this outdoor patio, associated with middle-class family life.



HOMES NEEDED FOR 10,000 BROWN ORPHANS: Deserted tots find few would-be parents, excluded by color line in many orphanages

In South Carolina recently, a mid-wife sold an infant for $20 to collect her fee for delivery of the child.

In Chicago a two-hour-old tot was abandoned in a shoe box on a busy street by an unmarried mother.

In St. Louis a year-old youngster, happily adopted by a white family, was returned to an agency when she began to develop Negroid features.

These are some of the estimated 10,000 deserted, neglected, motherless Negro children who are in desperate need of homes. Victims of the breakup of some 581,000 colored homes (according to 1947 U.S. census bureau figures), these 10,000 brown babies are up for adoption but there are piteously few would-be parents who will take them into their homes. While for every one of the 150,000 white tots in 1,600 orphanages, there are 10 couples with outstretched arms anxious to make an adoption, Negro orphans find few takers.

Because so few childless colored couples adopt orphans and because so many orphanages strictly hold to the color line, there is a growing crisis for homeless Negro youngsters that rapidly is approaching calamitous proportions. Such responsible groups as the Illinois Children’s Home and Aid Society were hit by 90 per cent increase in Negro tots and had to turn many away. The society was overburdened not only by the lack of parents willing to adopt the children and the shortage of foster homes but also by the refusal of some 90 per cent of the state’s 106 institutions to accept Negro children for keeping.

As a result these unfortunate children grow up unwanted and friendless in unfit homes or are kept in penal institutions in some states for lack of a better place – their only crime, that of being brown. . . .


Source: “Homes Needed for 10,000 Brown Orphans,” Ebony, October 1948, 19.

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