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"Anxious to have Friends" : A Case Study of Transnational Letter Writing among Colonial Nigerian Children (1930s-1950s)

Title data

Edeagu, Ngozi:
"Anxious to have Friends" : A Case Study of Transnational Letter Writing among Colonial Nigerian Children (1930s-1950s).
Event: Colonial Letters and the Contact of Knowledges : Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Colonial Correspondences , 11.-14.04.2023 , Bayreuth, Germany.
(Conference item: Conference , Paper )

Official URL: Volltext

Project information

Project title:
Project's official title
Project's id
Writing Back to Empire: Newspapers, Non-Elites and Decolonisation in the Global Public Sphere, 1937-1957
No information

Project financing: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst

Abstract in another language

In 1900, letter writing in Southern Nigeria became an officially recognized trade, governed by the Illiterates’ Protection Ordinance’. Utilising a pen or a typewriter, this new occupation of the colonial era produced professional letter writers who wrote business letters and those that “compel attention.” In addition, public letter writers, who also functioned as debt collectors, enabled the predominantly non-literate in English population to communicate their grievances in the form of petitions. However, letters held other uses besides venting which had become what Burns called “a national sport” in the colonial territory. Children, particularly in the colonial capital of Lagos, used letter writing to get in touch with others, create friendships and understand the world around them. Yet, the body of literature has not adequately addressed letter writing among children or outside the worn lens of petition writing. This paper aims to address this gap by examining letter writing among children in southern Nigeria. These children’s letters were found mainly in the Chicago Defender newspaper, a widely circulating national African American publication in the United States. Through this case study, this paper expands the scope of the literature by incorporating alternative voices and diverse understandings of letter writing during the colonial period. These letters of various lengths demonstrate children’s willingness to traverse space by reaching out to their brothers and sisters in the United States and affiliating with them through the instrument of the Bud Billiken children’s club. Thus, this paper also aims to show how racial and social identities were built and sustained through letter writing.

Further data

Item Type: Conference item (Paper)
Refereed: No
Keywords: letters; children; Nigeria; newspapers; United States; friendship; Chicago Defender; West African Pilot; Bud Billiken Club
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Cultural Studies > Professor History of Africa > Professor History of Africa - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Joël Glasman
Graduate Schools > BIGSAS
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 900 History and geography > 900 History
900 History and geography > 960 History of Africa
900 History and geography > 970 History of North America
Date Deposited: 15 May 2023 08:29
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 08:29