Banned Books Week, held from September 23 – 29, is the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The theme, “Banning Books Silences Stories,” is a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship. It’s especially important when considering books written by people of color whose stories, experiences and histories, have been either whitewashed, appropriated, censored or outright suppressed. So in recognition of Banned Books Week, we’ve put together a small list of banned books written by African Americans. We believe these books should be read for your own enjoyment, edification, or just to tick off a few people.
In any case, it is our belief that the only way we learn, mature, and bridge divides is to share and debate ideas…even those we may completely disagree with. However, no person, community, or nation has ever achieved anything of note by turning away from knowledge. After you check out our list below, please leave a comment below recommending your favorite banned book written by a person of the African Diaspora.
MahoganyBooks Banned Books 2018 Curated List
|BUCK by M.K. Asante|
|Removed from the curriculum at Digital Harbor (MD) High School after parents complained that the content and language were too graphic for teenagers. The coming-of-age memoir follows the author as he navigates the streets of Philadelphia as a kid, educating himself through gangs, school, rap, and books. A teacher from Digital Harbor High School wrote an opinion piece for the Baltimore Sun stating, “When we take away literature that reflects the realities of many students’ lives, we say to them that their voices do not matter.” Asante, now an associate professor at Morgan State University, has boon teaching Buck in Baltimore City since 2013, and told Cassius, “When I was a young buck, it was these kinds of books [that] really changed the whole trajectory and direction of my life…”|
|Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin|
|Baldwin’s blunt prose rubbed people in New York and Virginia the wrong way, it appears. “Go Tell It on the Mountain” was banned in both states for being “rife with profanity and explicit sex” and including “recurring themes of rape, masturbation, violence and degrading treatment of women.”
Those districts apparently couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that talking directly about such subjects can actually clarify them for students. Suppressing these hormonal teens’ questions only leads to them being more confused and ashamed of the things going on in their heads and bodies.
|The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas|
|After a parent’s public complaint at a school board meeting, the superintendent of Katy (TX) Independent School District removed the multiple award-winning book from all the school libraries in the district. Teachers and librarians argued against the censorship, which produced overwhelming media uproar. A Katy ISD student circulated a petition gathering over 3,700 signatures to urge reinstatement of the book. The Superintendent held firm in his claim that the book was pervasively vulgar and he was legally right to censor the book. Three months later the critically acclaimed novel about a black teen dealing with the aftermath of witnessing a police shooting that killed her unarmed friend was returned to the district’s high school libraries, available to students only with parental consent.|
|I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou|
|Believe it or not, Maya Angelou is one of the most banned authors in the United States. Her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, has constantly been one of the most challenged books in the country since its release in 1969.|
|The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot|
|Challenged as a summer reading assignment in the Knoxville (TN) high school system because a parent claimed the nonfiction book “has too much graphic information.” Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more.|
|The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander|
|Banned in North Carolina prisons in February 2017 because it was considered “likely to provoke confrontation between racial groups.” The book was later removed from the list of prohibited books after the American Civil Liberties Union sent NC Department of Public Safety officials a public letter in 2018.|
|A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn|
|A defeated bill in Arkansas would have banned books an materials written by Howard Zinn after 1959 in all publicly funded schools’ curriculum and course material. Zinn’s most popular work, A People’s History of the United States, is the only volume to tell America’s history from the point of view of women, workers, minorities, immigrants, and the working class, according to publisher HarperCollins. In response to the bill, the Zinn Education Project sent 700 free copies of The People’s History to librarians and teachers across the state.|