“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” author Roald Dahl’s widow recently said the main character of the classic children’s book was supposed to be Black.
“His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy,” Liccy Dahl said during a September interview with BBC Radio 4.
The conversation took place on what would have been the writer’s 101st birthday. Dahl’s biographer, Donald Sturrock, who was also present during the interview, added that Dahl’s agent at the time pushed back against a Black Charlie.
“I can tell you that it was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a Black hero,” Sturrock said. “She said people would ask: ‘Why?’”
Dahl said she didn’t know why her late husband’s agent was opposed to the idea and it was “a great pity.”
The author received criticism for the film’s Oompa Loompa characters. Given they were supposed to represent African pygmies in the novel, the NAACP found issue with their portrayal as factory laborers in the movie. They were unsettled by the simplicity with which the characters could be perceived as slaves.
Dahl alleged he had no such intention and rewrote the Oompa Loompas as White dwarves in the film’s second U.S. version.