While browsing in a secondhand bookshop recently, I came across an English children’s story entitled Although He Was Black. Readers might like to complete the title for themselves: although he was black, he was clean; although he was black, he was honest; although he was black, he was clever. The last sentence of the book, however, reveals all, and reads:

Dear old chap, he was one of the whitest fellows I ever knew—although he was black!

The dear old chap in question was Sambo, an orphaned black boy brought to England by a wealthy Englishman called Mr. Darrell who, for a reason unspecified, had spent some time in Kentucky. His two sons were expecting him to return with a parrot or a monkey as a present from such exotic climes, but he brought back Sambo instead, telling his two sons that

“I want you each to understand that Sambo is ...