Garth Williams

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Garth Williams, c. 1990.

Garth Montgomery Williams (1912-04-16 - 1996-05-08) was an American artist most popular for his illustrations in children's books, and, to a lesser extent, a writer.

I first saw Williams's work in the reprints of the Little House book series that my mother had when I was very young. I really loved the pictures and still admire them as an adult; they really make the books come alive. In elementary school I got a box set of E.B. White's books, and I discovered that Williams also did the illustrations for Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. I also saw his work in some of the books written by Margaret Wise Brown, and various other children's books, though I didn't always recognize his work.

I admire Garth Williams even more for how he handled a controversy in 1959 about his book The Rabbit's Wedding. Alabama racists were in an uproar because the book features a white rabbit and a black rabbit marrying. The White Citizens Council of Alabama attacked the book calling it "communistic" for promoting racial integration and E. O. Eddins, who would become an Alabama State Senator, called for the book to be burned. Alabama had criminalized marrying someone of a different skin tone in 1924 and interracial marriage remained illegal until 1967, not because Alabamians voted in favor of integration, but because they had it forced upon them. In a prepared statement, Williams said, "I was completely unaware that animals with white fur, such as white polar bears and white dogs and white rabbits, were considered blood relations of white human beings," and explained that the book, "was not written for adults, who will not understand it because it is only about a soft, furry love and has no hidden messages of hate." Alabama librarian Emily Reed advocated for the book, and, rather than destroy it, took the book off shelf and made it available upon request. Because she refused to ban the book, Alabama Legislature passed another bigoted law to protect their existing bigoted laws requiring the state library chief to be born in Alabama and be a graduate of a Alabama college. This would have disqualifed Reed, who was born North Carolina, but she moved to Washington D.C. before the law passed[1].

Illustrations

Here are some sample illustrations of Williams's work.

Partial Bibliography

Pictures

Links