New York: The John Day Company, 1971. Spiral-bound photobook, measuring 18 x 18 inches: . Glossy photographic card boards, printed recto and verso. Thirty-six black and white photographs (twenty-four recto and twelve verso), printed on heavy card stock. Boards lightly soiled and creased.
First edition of this striking photobook, part of Betty Atwell Wright’s Urban Education Studies, “a fascinating group of albums designed primarily for teaching urban slum children” (Library Journal 91:1, 1966). Wright’s Special City Albums included chart-sized photobooks on New York, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, as well as two photobooks on cities overseas: the first on Tokyo; the second, this survey of African cities. Rather than teaching historical or geographical facts, the Special City Albums were designed to draw inner-city children into conversation about their own experiences: “The urban child meets himself in these pictures, which were selected to inspire discussion. He recognizes himself and others and is able to talk about thoughts, feelings, and hopes.” The albums were also intended to give “children of upper and middle socio-economic areas a sensitivity to real living in great cities.” The photographs of Africa are almost all the work of Marc and Evelyne Bernheim, who published a number of children’s books about Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In keeping with the educational aims of the Special City Albums, the images are not identified by city or nation. Instead, they focus on urban Africans across the continent living their lives: children lining up for ice cream, a family playing a game of mancala, a man in tribal dress riding a city bus, a woman learning to read, supermarket shoppers, worshippers in church, factory workers and doctors, architects and airline pilots. OCLC locates only one holding, at Duke. A near-fine example of a scarce and stunning book.