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In October 2022, the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) partnered with the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC) on a bus tour to mobilize “10 Million More Black Voters” in order to fight back against book bans across the country with a new campaign – From Freedom Riders to Freedom Readers: The Books Unbanned Tour. On our two-week bus tour from Minneapolis to Jacksonville, we distributed thousands of banned books and spoke with engaged citizens about the dangers of censorship to our hopes for justice and the promise of democracy. From this the Books Unbanned: From Freedom Riders to Freedom Readers Book Clubs was created. It is intended to educate, enlighten, and empower all ages to engage in reading and critical thinking about invaluable pieces of literature and contemporary issues. Honoring the sacrifice and commitment of the Freedom Riders who risked their lives in pursuit of civil justice, we come together as Freedom Readers to create a long-lasting impact to build open and inclusive learning communities that together will shore up the foundations of multiracial democracy.
THREE WAYS TO SUPPORT
- Go to www.aapf.org/truthbetold to check out the censorship and anti-CRT activity in your state on our interactive map that lists enacted and pending bans in your state. Contact your local and/or state officials to demand repeal of these anti-CRT/anti-LGBTQ censorship laws and book bans in your state or locality. Demand that your elected officials invest in and celebrate our country’s diversity as a strength.
- Become a Freedom Reader: Just as our Civil Rights heroes resisted the indignities of segregation by becoming Freedom Riders and opening Freedom Schools, we must become Freedom Readers to resist this attempt to relegate our history, stories and knowledge to oblivion. Learn more about Books Unbanned: From Freedom Riders to Freedom Readers visit our site www.booksunbanned.org.
- Donate at www.aapf.org/donate to support our work and follow us on social media (IG: aapolicyforum | FaceBook: TheAfricanAmericanPolicyForum | Twitter: AAPolicyForum | YouTube: AAPolicyForum) to get more information on our events and more ways to get involved.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water(Grade Level K-4)
by Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renee Watson
Adapted from the 1619 Project issue of The New York Times Magazine, this poetic picture book chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States. It has been banned by Florida State Board of Education rule prohibiting CRT and 1619 Project in public schools – “Instruction may not utilize material from the 1619 Project and may not define American history as something other than the creation of a new nation based largely on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence” – and by Texas law SB 3, which makes it illegal for public schools to “require an understanding of the 1619 Project” and prohibits teachers from describing chattel slavery and racism as “anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States.”
Something Happened in Our Town(Grade Level K-4)
by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, & Ann Hazzard
Listed as the sixth-most banned book of 2020, Something Happened In Our Town, is an illustrated children’s book that follows two families — one white, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. ”Challenged for ‘divisive language’ and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.” ~ American Library Association
New Kid(Grade Level 5-8)
by Jerry Craft
Based on Craft’s own experiences, New Kid tells the story of a 12-year-old Black boy who experiences culture shock when he enrolls at a mostly-white private school. The book was banned by administrators in Texas after a white parent complained that the book promotes Critical Race Theory and makes white children “feel like oppressors.”
Stamped (For Kids)(Grade Level 5-8)
by Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds
The ALA’s second-most banned book of 2020, Stamped (for Kids) is an introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America. The ALA describes it as “banned and challenged because of author’s public statements and claims that the book contains ‘selective storytelling incidents’ and does not encompass racism against all people.”
This Is Your Time(Grade Level 5-8)
by Ruby Bridges
Written as a letter to the reader, this autobiographical children’s book chronicles Bridges’s experience as a child who had to be escorted to class by federal marshals when she was chosen to be one of the first black students to integrate into New Orleans’ all-white public school system. It was banned by 2 Texas school districts following State Rep. Matt Krause’s 2021 letter demanding investigations of books containing “material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”
All American Boys(Grade Level 9-12)
by Brendan Kiely & Jason Reynolds
The ALA’s third-most banned book of 2020, All American Boys tells the story of two teenage boys as they handle racism and police brutality in their community. The ALA describes it as “banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be ‘too much of a sensitive matter right now.’”
All Boys Aren’t Blue(Grade Level 9-12)
by George M. Johnson
The ALA’s third-most banned book of 2021, All Boys Aren’t Blue consists of a series of essays following Johnson’s journey growing up as a queer Black man in New Jersey and Virginia. The ALA describes it as “banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.” Over the past two years, administrators of school districts in thirteen states have banned this work.
The Bluest Eye(Grade Level 9-12)
by Toni Morrison
The ALA’s eighth-most banned book of 2021, The Bluest Eye tells the story of an eleven-year-old African American girl who is convinced that she is ugly and yearns to have lighter skin and blue eyes. The ALA describes it as “banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.” In the past two years, Toni Morrison’s classic novel has been banned by administrators of school districts in thirteen states.
The Color Purple(Grade Level 9-12)
by Alice Walker
The ALA’s seventeenth-most banned book of 2000-2009, The Color Purple follows an African-American woman living in the South who survives incredible abuse and bigotry. In 2021, Walker’s classic novel was banned by administrators in Florida following complaints from Moms for Liberty activists contesting a list of 146 books they claimed “contain pornographic passages and themes related to critical race theory.”
Dear Martin(Grade Level 9-12)
by Nic Stone
Banned by administrators in several states following parent complaints of “explicit language,” Dear Martin follows a Black high-schooler attending a predominantly white preparatory school who has an incident with a police officer that turns violent.
The Hate U Give(Grade Level 9 - 12)
by Angie Thomas
The fifth-most banned book of 2021, The Hate U Give follows a Black sixteen-year-old girl who witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood best friend. The ALA describes it as “banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You(Grade Level 9 - 12)
by Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds
Based on Ibram X. Kendi’s New York Times Bestseller and National Book Award winner Stamped: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, this version of Stamped is written for young readers. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism & You provides an in-depth look at the history of racist ideas and how to fight against them. According to the ALA, it was the second most banned or challenged book in the United States in 2020.
The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story(Adult)
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Released in 2021, The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story is a book-length expansion of the essays presented in the 1619 Project issue of The New York Times Magazine in August 2019. Texas and Florida have prohibited public school teachers from using it in their classrooms.
Between the World and Me(Adult)
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Banned by district administrators in Texas and Pennsylvania, Coates’s award-winning book is written as a letter to his teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States.
Critical Race Theory: Key Writings that Formed the Movement(Adult)
by Kimberlé Crenshaw et al.
First published in 1995, this foundational anthology critically examines the relationship between race and law. Since 2020, the “CRT” label has been strategically manipulated by right-wing
propagandists to demonize any and all forms of antiracism, including restricting teaching of race- and sex-related concepts in schools and employee trainings.
The Handmaid’s Tale(Adult)
by Margaret Atwood
The novel envisions a future in which the U.S. government has been overthrown and replaced by an extremist patriarchal order in which women are enslaved and forced to reproduce with their male overlords. Supposedly the book was “banned and challenged for profanity and for ‘vulgarity and sexual overtones.’”
Heavy: An American Memoir(Adult)
by Kiese Laymon
Banned by administrators in Kansas and Missouri following parent complaints of graphic content, Heavy is a memoir outlining the weight of being a Black man in America.
by Bryan Stevenson
One of the most popular targets of book bans in United States prisons, Just Mercy tells the story of Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to death for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, carceral institutions in many states “follow arbitrary policies that exclude books on civil rights, human rights, and American history—especially those by Black authors.”
by Audre Lorde
Banned by administrators in Tennessee due to LGBTQ-related content, this collection of essential essays and speeches written by Audre Lorde focuses on the particulars of her identity: Black woman, lesbian, poet, activist, cancer survivor, mother, and feminist.
Their Eyes Were Watching God(Adult)
by Zora Neale Hurston)
Banned by administrators in Oklahoma due to explicit language and sexual content, the classic novel tells the story of Janie Crawford, an African American woman who struggles and triumphs as she grows and eventually learns to live for herself instead of others.