If (When) They Ban My Book…

I have the privilege of teaching United States history to Black and Brown high school students.

I can remember being a high school student and “learning” American history. The truth that I know today was taught to me then. I learned that truth outside of the K-12 infrastructure. I don’t wish to cast aspersions on my history teachers over the years; all of whom were white. I don’t believe they intentionally withheld truth from my spirit. They themselves were likely unaware of truth.

I know this to be likely, because many of my white teacher colleagues are unaware of truth.

That I was one of many Black children who were miseducated and fed disinformation about history fueled my desire not only to become a history teacher, but to perfect my craft as a history teacher. I strive to grow in this craft daily.  

My journey as a Black history teacher has afforded me numerous opportunities beyond teaching in the classroom. It’s afforded me the opportunity to use the pen to advocate on behalf of Black children, Black educators, and Black history as an area of necessity. Advocating on behalf of the need for Black history led to the opportunity of a lifetime; writing a book on Black history for children.

When approached by my publisher to write Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids, I was excited for the opportunity. Teachers must utilize every tool they can to teach and I understood the importance of utilizing literature to teach history; to teach truth. In addition to that, I was excited to join the pantheon of Black historians who have used books as a vehicle to not only teach Black people about Black history, but to empower us to confront the lies told about who we are as a people with the truth.

Specifically, on the topic of Black resistance.

It was important to make Black resistance the center of what I wrote because Black people were central and complicit in our liberation as well as in the pushing of the United States to, as Dr. King said, be what it says it is on paper. Unfortunately, Black resistance isn’t a theme in the history classroom. Teachers rarely mention it during Black History Month. Because a largely white teacher population is unaware of history.

But also, schools traditionally are also white institutional spaces.

Teaching Black children about the resistance of our folks throughout history has the power to encourage and empower them to take up the mantle of resistance within a white power structure. To be clear, that’s not what schools are designed (or desiring) to do.

Schools want “good citizens,” who’ll contribute to the society as it as versus citizens who push society to be what it must be for people. That explains the backlash against Black history. It’s because the history of Black people is such that we’ve pushed the United States to actually become the democracy that it says it is.

The founders didn’t do that. However, states—specifically those within the old Confederacy—don’t want democracy if it means Black people will be free. So, they’ll conceal all that they can to make America great again.

There’s a strong possibility that my book could be banned in states like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and others. I wouldn’t be shocked in the slightest and while it would be unfortunate, I’d be in good company with the canon of truth telling books written by Black authors.

Nevertheless, banning books is a violation of a child’s civil rights; It’s a violation of a child’s human right… yet books are banned all over the country. So, what do we do?

We continue to fight, strategically, as we have been.

Yes, books are banned in school districts, however conservatives cannot ban them everywhere, even if they want to. School libraries are often the easiest places where young people can get their hands-on books, but they’re not the only places. Young people can get books, specifically banned books, at their local municipal libraries. If those libraries are banning books, they can find those books in bookstores.

Young people may or may not have access to money to purchase books. But those of us who are either parents, uncles, aunties, grandparents or mentors to young people, we can slowly build a library where those under are care can come to, to learn truth. Our libraries can be a haven for young people in the community to get what they aren’t getting in schools.

Community is important. I’ve found that in the community, people have made libraries outside where young people can get what they need.

In the spaces where I work and where I live, there are small book boxes and libraries available for young people to take books for free. In Camden, where I teach young people, I’ve seen at least four such boxes around the city… not in industrial areas or downtown, but in the community where young people live and play.

These things matter, even in a state like New Jersey. Although New Jersey is Florida, there are certainly conservative pockets throughout the state.

We mustn’t limit our reach of young people to school districts. There are afterschool programs and summer programs led by individuals and organizations committed to teaching young people truth, through literature. Providing banned books to such places for young people make sense.

In short, historians, scholars, educators and parents must utilize all the tools in our collective toolbelts to make the truth available to young people. We must do everything that we can to ensure that young people get the right information, especially if their schools fail to give it to them or if their schools give them misinformation.

It’s a gargantuan task, but the roles of historian, scholar, educator and parent is no small feat.

We must continue to fight. Writers must write truth. Teachers must teach truth. Historians must search for truth. Parents must give their children truth. May the truth keep marching on.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Up Next