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Banned somewhere in the U.S.A.: many African American classics are consigned to another insidious "black list".

The First Amendment to The U.S. Constitution provides, apparently not in the clearest language, that writers and artists and all freethinkers who weave ideas and language into an illuminating, even provocative form, have the right to do so. But the First Amendment, nonetheless, has been argued and debated countless times.

Nearly every individual, interest group and established organization imaginable has taken a potshot at the First. So it comes as no surprise that the American Library Association, along with other organizations, orchestrates a Banned Books Week, which is held during the last week of September, in observance of authors (living and deceased) and their stellar works that have been subject to some form of censorship in both public and school libraries across the country. From Maya Angelou to Judy Bloom to Richard Wright, from Another Country to Harry Potter to The Color Purple, these are just a few of the "offenders" covered.

In the Introduction to the 20th Anniversary catalogue, a statement reads "Banned Books Week is ... Firmly rooted in the First Amendment of The U.S. Constitution, the rights to freedom of speech and press require continuing vigilance in order to keep them vital." Perusing the list, however, one must wonder just how much vigilance is necessary, while improving low reading skills in schools seems to be a constant challenge.

Reviewing the list of books challenged or banned--favorites, well-received and prize-winning titles--from the 20th anniversary ALA Resource Guide, BIBR found several works by or about African Americans mentioned that we'd like to share with our readers. For more information about Banned Books Week, go to the American Library Association's Web site at www.ala.org. (Various new and used editions of these titles are available.)

A HERO AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT A SANDWICH

by Alice Childress:

Removed from the Savannah, Ga. school libraries (1978) due to "objectionable' language. Challenged at the Aberdeen High School in Bel Air, Md. (1994) because the novel was deemed "racist and vulgar."

A LESSON BEFORE DYING

by Ernest Gaines:

Banned, but later reinstated after community protest at the windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga. (2000). The controversy began in early 1999 when a parent complained about sex, violence and profanity in the book that was part of an advanced placement English class.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X

by Malcolm X and Alex Haley:

Restricted at Jacksonville, Fla., middle school libraries (1994) as presenting a racist view of white people and a "how-to manual" for crime.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN

by Ernest Gaines:

Pulled from a seventh-grade class in Conroe, Texas (1995) after complaints about racial slurs in the book.

BELOVED

by Toni Morrison:

Challenged by a member of the Madawaska, Maine, School Committee (1997) because of the book's language. The 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been required reading for the advanced placement English class for six years.

THE BEST SHORT STORIES BY NEGRO WRITERS

by Langston Hughes:

Removed from the Island Trees, N.Y., Union Free District High School library in 1976, along with nine other titles, because they were considered "immoral, anti-American, anti-Christian, or just plain filthy."

BLACK BOY

by Richard Wright:

Challenged in the Jacksonville, Fla., public schools (1997) by a minister who said the book contained "profanity and may spark hard feelings between students of different races."

THE BLUEST EYE

by Toni Morrison:

Removed from the reading lists for ninth and tenth-graders at Stevens High School in Claremont, N.H. (1999) because of a parent's complaint about the book's sexual content. Banned from the Morrisville, Pa., Borough high school English curriculum (1994) after complaints about its sexual content and objectionable language.

THE COLOR PURPLE

by Alice Walker:

Challenged as an appropriate reading for an Oakland, Calif., high ,school honors class (1984) for "sexual and ,social explicitness" and "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." Banned in the Souderton, Pa., Area School District (1992) as appropriate reading for tenth graders because it was considered "smut."

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN

by James Baldwin:

Challenged as a ninth-grade summer reading option in Prince William County, Va., (1998) because the book "was rife with profanity and explicit sex."

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

by Maya Angelou:

Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee (1983) called for its rejection because they said Angelou's work preaches "bitterness and hatred against whites." Removed from the curriculum pending a review of its content at the Gilbert, Ariz., Unified School (1995). Complaining parents said the book did not represent "traditional values." Challenged on the Poolesville High School, Md., (2000) reading list for sexual content and language.

JUBILEE

by Margaret Walker:

Challenged in the Greenville. S.C. County school libraries (1977) by the Titan of the Fourth Province of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan because the novel produces "racial strife and hatred."
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Author:Reynolds, Clarence V.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Words:808
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