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Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 2 Mar 1998 13:10:10 +0000
text/plain (76 lines)
On  1 Mar 98 at 23:28, Ropapope wrote:
> My kids don't read Mark Twain in any form in school, but they do have to read
> Maya Angelou. She uses the "W" word and"Honkey" liberally. Maybe the NAACP
> should have her books banned as unappropriate.

One of the interesting things about the NAACP's campaign is that it
coincides with challenges in two Maryland school districts to Maya
Angelou's _I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings_ and Toni Morrison's _Song
of Solomon_ as "anti-white".  The Washington Post ran a story about
this in early February and it has been discussed on the H-Amstdy
American Studies list.  Below is a message about the campaigns that I
sent through that list:


>Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 03:07:35 +0000
>From: Jim Zwick <[log in to unmask]>

Maya Angelou's _I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings_ is listed by the
American Library Association as the third most frequently challenged
book of 1996, right behind _Huckleberry Finn_, so I was not very
surprised when I first heard of the recent moves in Maryland.  But I
wonder if it along with two current attempts to ban _Huckleberry Finn_
might indicate changes in strategies by people seeking to ban books on
racial grounds.

On Feb. 2, the Pennsylvania NAACP launched a campaign to have
_Huckleberry Finn_ removed from all required and optional reading
lists in the state's schools.  (I have a page with links to on-going
Philadelphia and Allentown news coverage of this at my Twain site at What I
thought was most interesting is that the campaign is statewide instead
of local (as in Maryland), and that the NAACP is urging students whose
schools do not remove the book from reading lists to file a grievance
with the state's Human Rights Commission. Similarly, there is a court
case in Arizona right now where the argument is being made that
teaching Twain's book and Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" "created,
exacerbated and contributed to a hostile work environment" at a Tempe
high school (see "Plaintiff's Counsel Hounded on Huckleberry," CalLaw,

What strikes me as unusual in these cases is the use of
civil rights legislation to intervene in curriculum decisions in
Pennsylvania and Arizona, and that the proponents of banning the
books in Maryland are so forthright in attacking them as "anti-white"
instead of objecting to "sexual content" or using some other
non-racial front.  Are there other examples of these tactics being
used elsewhere in the country?


No one responded to that question through H-Amstdy.  Does anyone know
of other examples involving Twain's works?

There is another new article about the NAACP campaign online today at
the Philadelphia Daily News:

Parents are Reading Too Much into Some Books in Curriculum

Additional links to editorials, news stories, and letters to the
editor have also been added to the Pennsylvania NAACP vs. Huck Finn
page (URL above) in the last few days.  Although the NAACP does not
appear to be getting much support for removing the book from school
reading lists, its campaign seems to have started one of the most
thorough public discussions of the issues in at least several years,
and it will be interesting to see how the state's Human Rights
Commission handles any grievances it receives as a result of the

Jim Zwick
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