Roald Dahl originally wanted the eponymous hero of his much-loved children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" to be black, his widow has said. "His first Charlie that he wrote about was a little black boy," Liccy Dahl said in a BBC Radio interview on Dahl's 101st birth anniversary. She also said the character was inspired by American sensibilities, and that it was a "great pity" her husband acquiesced to the change. "It was his agent who thought it was a bad idea, when the book was first published, to have a black hero," said Donald Sturrock, Dahl's biographer. "She said, 'People would ask why.'" Surprisingly, the author was accused of racism in relation to the book.
The allegation stemmed from the fact that the Oompa Loompas in the original version were black pygmies from Africa. The reports in 1970 that there were plans to make a film on the book drew the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the work and they said the importation of the Oompa Loompas to the factory had overtones of slavery. Dahl said there was no racist intent behind the Oompa Loompas but added he found himself sympathising with the NAACP. The author rewrote them in time for the second US edition as white hippyish dwarves hailing from an invented place, "Loompaland". The film, starring Gene Wilder, avoided the issue of race altogether, making them green-haired and orange-skinned. Liccy added that seeing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as her husband envisioned would be "wonderful". Filmmaker Ava DuVernay supported the idea on Twitter, writing, "raises hand for movie adaptation.
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