Black art and literature have gradually become prey in the entertainment industry, with recent efforts to remove Black-authored books and race-conscious issues from libraries and school curricula. In 2020, the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom reported 273 challenges to books, most authored by people of color. Although not all challenges resulted in the books being banned, or removed from libraries and schools, the constant nudge and criticisms against these books speak loud volumes. In this article, we will highlight a few banned books by Black authors and, the spicy part, why these books are getting banned.
5 Banned Books By Black Authors and Why They Were Banned
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings -Maya Angelou
If you know even a little about Maya, you would wonder why her book makes this list. She dominated the literary space through the ‘90s, won awards of all sorts, and even got to present a piece at Bill Clinton’s inauguration as U.S. President. Despite these achievements, Maya still makes the list of most banned authors in U.S. history almost every other year.
Her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, details her struggles with racism, rape, identity, and literacy during her formative years, and follows her journey from a victim of prejudice with an inferiority complex to a confident civil rights activist. It is a powerful account of a woman’s ability to survive and thrive in a male-dominated world.
According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, the book has faced several challenges because it promotes “bitterness and hatred toward white people” and encourages “deviant behavior because of references to lesbianism, premarital sex, and profanity.” Adding to the list are the use of language and irreverent religious depictions.
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- The Hate U Give -Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give (THUG) narrates the story of a teenage girl living in two worlds, her Black home and her predominantly white school. When her unarmed friend is killed in her presence by the police, she starts a protest, standing face to face with the injustice of her friend while declaring pride in her black identity.
Angie Thomas portrayed real-life racism in this novel which gained traction and got filmed. However, the book got banned throughout the school district due to a complaint from a parent regarding its depiction of drug use and use of strong language. Interestingly, other books with even more explicit portrayals of drug use, racism, and sexuality were allowed to remain on the school’s shelves.
THUG also faced repression by the South Carolina police, which claimed the book was ‘anti-cop’ and promoted distrust of the police.
- The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story -Nikole Hannah-Jones
The 1619 Project is a collection of poems, fiction, and essays by a group of authors, journalists, and historians, that challenges traditional narratives of American history and highlights the impact of slavery on the nation’s culture and politics. It takes its name from the year when the first enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia.
The project inspired discussions and debates about the role of slavery in American history and racial justice. However, the Trump administration banned federal funding for programs incorporating the project, citing concerns of promoting “divisive, un-American propaganda.” Several states, including Arkansas, Iowa, and Oklahoma, also banned its use in public schools, claiming inaccuracy and unpatriotic nature.
- The New Kid -Jerry Craft
This graphic novel depicts the typical struggle of a seventh-grader in a prestigious private school, Jordan Banks, as he tries to fit in and navigate racial and cultural divides. The book tackles themes of identity, prejudice, and friendship in a relatable and engaging way. It is a book every Black adult, including the author, wishes they read as kids.
“The New Kid” and its companion book “Class Act” have been targeted for censorship in certain schools and libraries over concerns about their portrayal of racism and microaggressions. Critics argue they promote negativity and division.
- To Kill a Mockingbird -Harper Lee
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic novel that explores the life of a young girl, Scout Finch, during the Great Depression, as her lawyer father defends a Black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.
The novel deals with themes like racism, prejudice, and injustice and portrays how Scout loses her innocence when she confronts the prejudices and biases of her community.
Despite its critical acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, the book has encountered challenges and censorship in schools and libraries due to the use of racial slurs to the controversial subject matter.
Why Are More Books By Black Authors Getting Banned? Is it because of the fierceness and unapologetic zeal with which Black authors point out injustice, repression, and racism? It is obvious and at the same time, hard to point out.
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Living in a country with hate, injustice, racism, and gender issues makes it hard to be silent. More banned books by Black authors are facing criticism and challenges for revealing the harsh realities of Black history, slavery, racism, gender inequality, and sexuality. These books may contain explicit content, but they are eye-openers to the near-authentic state of America.
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