From religious texts and anti-slavery novels to modern works removed from school libraries, here’s how the targets of censorship have changed over the years.
By Erin Blakemore, Published September 6, 2022
Mark Twain. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Judy Blume. William Shakespeare. These names share something more than a legacy of classic literature and a place on school curriculums: They’re just some of the many authors whose work has been banned from classrooms over the years for content deemed controversial, obscene, or otherwise objectionable by authorities.
In response to the more than 1,500 books challenged to be removed from libraries in the last year, the New York Public Library launched an effort to make some banned books available for everyone — for free.
The initiative is called Books for All and allows any reader aged 13 and older to access commonly banned books through the library’s app until the end of May. There are no wait times to access the books and no fines, the library said. Typically, access to books at the New York Public Library are only available to New Yorkers with a library card.
“The recent instances of both attempted and successful book banning —primarily on titles that explore race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history — are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” said Tony Marx, president of the New York Public Library.
“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous, breeding hate and division … Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all,” Marx said.
The New York Public Library’s efforts launched on April 13. The books currently available are Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
Throughout history, certain books have come under fire for content deemed inappropriate or controversial — often, that content is by and about people of color, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups.
As a spate of classroom censorship bills aim to erase discussions about race and gender in schools across the country, books about the same issues are being banned and challenged across public schools and libraries at an alarming rate.
Read about some of the books that have most recently been banned or challenged for removal across public schools and libraries in our ‘ACLU Banned Book Club Reading List’ below.
NOTE: The following list includes books that have been formally removed or were recently challenged for removal from public schools or libraries.
1. “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
Published in 1970, “The Bluest Eye” was Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison’s first novel. Its 11-year-old protagonist, Pecola Breedlove, copes with racism and sexual abuse as she comes of age in 1940s Ohio. Despite its status as a seminal work by one of the foremost authors in American history, the book has been a frequent target of bans for content described as “sexually explicit material,” “disturbing language,” and an “underlying socialist-communist agenda.”
“The Bluest Eye” is one of the books at the center of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Missouri in February against Wentzville R-IV School District. The school district reversed its decision to ban the book shortly after the lawsuit filing, but litigation continues. Other recent challenges to the book have occurred in Mississippi, where Mayor Gene McGee of Ridgeland attempted to withhold over $100,000 in public funds from the Madison County Library System unless it purged it and other specific books, and in Virginia, where a school board in Virginia Beach removed the book from circulation, only to return it to shelves shortly after due to public outcry.
Editor’s Note: Read more, see link below for original item…
Two reports this week show the United States is facing an unprecedented wave of school book banning — spurring Congress to hold a hearing Thursday focused on the issue, which free-speech advocates warn will undermine democracy.
PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom of expression, found there have been 1,586 book bans in schools over the past nine months.
The bans targeted 1,145 unique books by more than 800 authors, and a plurality of the books — 41 percent — featured prominent characters who are people of color.
Thirty-three percent of the banned books, meanwhile, included LGBTQ themes, protagonists or strong secondary characters, and 22 percent “directly address issues of race and racism.”
Challenges to books like ‘Maus’ and ‘New Kid’ have more than doubled. Here’s what parents, teachers, and librarians have to say about the issue.
By Cassandra Spratling, Published February 28, 2022
When award-winning author and illustrator Jerry Craft learned last October that his virtual visit to a school in Katy, Texas, was canceled and his popular book New Kid had been removed from the library’s shelves, he was shocked.
A mom had complained that his humorous graphic novel—about his childhood experience as a Black student attending a mostly white school—gives students a distorted view of race.
“I couldn’t imagine what someone would find in it that was offensive,” says Craft, whose book won the Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award.
But some 400 people had signed a petition supporting the actions. After a 10-day review from the school district, his visit was rescheduled and the book put back on the shelves.