By Sheila Ferguson
“Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.”– Isaac Asimov
According to author Sophie Whitehead’s The Power of Books-A History of Censorship, Banning and Burning – Retrospect Journal, literary censorship in America dates back to the 1600s.
Whitehead suggests that as long as there have been books, there has been censorship. It began as book burning, followed by the removal of articles, songs, films, television productions, and plays from libraries and schools.
Today, this practice still occurs, and little has changed in the last century. It suppresses information that is believed to be objectionable from a political, moral, or religious standpoint. Censors say that their work is to safeguard and protect society and promote the dominant group’s norms and values.
Book banning is currently taking place all over America. Some include a mandatory punishment for those found in violation PEN America Index of Educational Gag Orders
Ohio also has two pending efforts to ban books:
HB 322 Primary Sponsor: Rep. Don Jones (R)
Bans requiring teachers to “discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.” Requires teachers who do, to “explore such issues from diverse and contending perspectives.” Bans requiring students to engage in political advocacy. Bans private funding of curriculum or teacher training. Bans teaching or training of staff to believe in certain concepts. Bans those concepts in teaching materials. Bans teachers from being required to affirm certain beliefs.
HB 327. Primary Sponsor Rep. Diane Grendell (R)
Bans teaching or training of divisive concepts. Bars funding for school districts in violation until in compliance. Allows the “impartial discussion of controversial aspects of history.” Prohibits state agencies (including institutions of higher education) from offering “teaching, instruction, or training on divisive concepts to any employees, contractors, staff members, or any other individual or… requir[ing] them to adopt or believe in divisive concepts.” Bars punishment for state employees’ “refusal to support believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to divisive concepts.” Bans state agencies from accepting private funding for curriculum or training that promotes divisive concepts.
The fact is that censorship:
- Dumbs down America by encouraging illiteracy (not knowing how to read) and aliteracy (a limited interest in reading)
- Fuels misinformation). It also keeps people from knowing about and reporting authentic history, and,
- Robs all citizens of vital historical information and learning opportunities in order to create a more equitable and accepting world.
Denying the history of slavery, the holocaust, LGBTQIA, Asian and Arab Americans is discriminatory and evil. It is an attempt to prevent the masses from recognizing man’s inhumanity to man.
Author George Orwell suggests that “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
As of 2021, 155 books have been banned from American schools and libraries including:
- Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
- J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye
- Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
- Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
- George Orwell’s Animal Farm
- George Orwell’s 1984
- John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men
- Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird
- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451
- William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
Also banned, African American literary classics:
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
- and Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project.
Barnes and Noble provides a full list of banned books here:
What Politicians Have Said
Looking back, two American presidents have offered their insights on book banning:
“Books cannot be killed by fire. People die, but books never die. No man and no force can abolish memory. In this war, we know, books are weapons. And it is a part of your dedication always to make them weapons for man’s freedom.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt, Democrat, 32nd President of the United States
“Don’t join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go to your library and read every book…”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican, 34th President of the United States
Taking An Empowering Stance
If you love learning, take a stand against book banning by:
1. Pursuing knowledge. If reading is a challenge, contact the Seeds of Literacy click here: to get up to speed.
In metropolitan Cleveland, you can register at Seeds of Literacy:
3104 W. 25th Street, 3rd Floor Cleveland, OH 44109
Phone #: 216.661.7950
2. Reading to your kids and family elders, and discussing what you read.
3. Talking about politics and history with family and community elders.
4. Participating in the annual Banned Books Week, which starts on September 18, 2022, to celebrate our shared freedom to read, spotlight censorship, and discuss the power of literature as a bridge to understanding.