Racial Unity Team
"Local history has a profound effect on our communities. It’s up to educators to learn and teach students about the hard history in their own backyards."
by Coshsndra Dillard
The battle for American history—real American history—is happening right now. By “real history,” I mean one that captures a more complete story and includes narratives of oppressed people, a history that connects the past with the present. It’s a stark contrast to the way history has been taught in our schools. As more people gain access to historical documents and online platforms that emphasize equity and justice, we see deeper dives into this real history. A recent, shining example can be found in the 1619 Project and the reporting on the legacy of slavery that it’s inspired. This initiative is an extraordinary undertaking that shows how slavery shaped the United States and continues to affect nearly every facet of American life. While it’s encouraging to watch this public recovery of history unfold, it’s critical that an accurate account of American history takes place inside the classroom. As we work to better educate ourselves about long-ignored national histories, though, we often miss something right under our noses: local history. Students must learn the truth about their own communities. That’s the history that has the most direct impact on the trajectory of their lives. Local History Matters!
For Black History Month let's start with Exeter's Black History.
Books by Black authors are among the most frequently banned. They tell important stories of survival in the South during slavery, Black struggle against segregation, and the ongoing battle for racial justice. With the aid of the American Library Association’s Top Banned Authors lists, National Coalition Against Censorship has compiled this list of books that excite our minds and hearts with their powerful stories—and were nonetheless challenged or banned in school and libraries. While we work with school boards in the hopes of engendering discussion about the educational value of such books, you too can do your part in upholding freedom of speech and cementing these authors’ places at the forefront of literary history: Read and enjoy.
Maya Angelou has deservingly been placed on many “Top 10” lists for her breathtaking poetry and autobiographical books. And she’s on another list, too: the
American Library Association’s Top 10 Banned Authors. In fact, she has been on that list every year for the past decade. According to the Office of Intellectual Freedom, her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has received numerous challenges due to its “bitterness and hatred toward white people” and encouragement of “deviant behavior because of references to lesbianism, premarital sex and profanity.” Nonetheless, Angelou was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, ensuring that her words will continue to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration.
The Library of Congress exhibit “Books that Shaped America” focuses on works that “have had a profound effect on American life.” It is sad, then, to realize that some of the books on the list have been banned in schools and libraries across the country– often because of personal or ideologically-based prejudices. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is one of those books. Objectors have called Malcolm X’s philosophy on black pride, Black Nationalism, and pan-Africanism a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried the book for its “anti-white statements.” In 2014, a teacher in New York forbade his students from writing about Malcolm X, referring to the activist as “bad” and “violent.” Though controversial, Malcolm X’s legacy teaches students about the importance of standing up for civil rights and the necessity of protest
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s first novel, follows the story of a young girl who struggles immensely with her personal identity in Midwest America during the years following the Great Depression. The book deals with difficult issues like race, rape, and incest–making it a target for censors across the county. In 2010, the book came under fire in Adams 12 Five Star School in Colorado when two parents objected to the mature subject matter. NCAC sent a letter to the school board “urging them to trust the professional judgment of teachers and the freedom to read of high school students.” Unfortunately, the challenge resulted in restrictions on how the book could be taught, to what grade level, and in what context. In 2013, Ohio School Board of Education president Debe Terhar labeled the book “pornographic” and criticized its inclusion in the Common Core Standard’s recommending reading list for 11th graders. Morrison spoke out against the attempts to
remove the book.