Books have been banned in the United States for a variety of reasons, including objections to their content, language, or themes. Some common reasons for book banning have included concerns over obscenity, offensive language, sexually explicit material, blasphemy, racism, and political or social commentary that may be deemed controversial or subversive.
The practice of book banning in the US has a long history, dating back to the 19th century. In the 20th century, some of the most frequently banned books have included works of literature such as Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” and John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.”
Other frequently banned books include books that deal with sensitive or controversial topics such as Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
In recent years, books that have been challenged in the US include Angie Thomas’s “The Hate U Give,” which deals with police brutality and racism. As well as George Orwell’s “1984,” which some have objected to for its political themes and portrayal of authoritarianism.
It is worth noting that book banning is a prohibitive practice that is often met with opposition from advocates of free speech and academic freedom. While individuals and organisations may object to certain books, many argue that censorship of any kind undermines fundamental democratic principles and the ability of individuals to think critically and make informed decisions.
Banned books related to African American Studies in the US
Banning books related to African American studies is unfortunately not uncommon. There have been several recent cases of such bans in the US.
One example is “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander. This book examines the racial disparities in the American criminal justice system. It has been challenged or banned in several states, including Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey. In 2020, the book was also temporarily removed from the curriculum of a Texas school district after a parent complained.
Another example is “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds. This book provides a history of racism in America and encourages readers to become antiracist. In 2020, the book was banned from an Ohio school district after a parent complained that it was promoting critical race theory.
“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X and Alex Haley has also faced challenges in several states, including in Michigan in 2021. The book is a classic in African American literature. It details Malcolm X’s life and his journey towards black nationalism and Islam. These are just a few examples of recent book bans related to African American studies.
From 2021 to 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned.
The ACLU’s banned book club list
Here are some books that have been banned across public schools and libraries in the ‘ACLU Banned Book Club Reading List’ below:
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
- “Heather Has Two Mommies” by Lesléa Newman
- “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Johnson
- “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
- “Melissa”* by Alex Gino, which was previously published as “George”
- “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
- “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
- “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
- “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Remember to check out the interview with Professor Lewis R. Gordon on political responsibility and his book Fear of Black Consciousness.
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