Recent attempts to silence authors like Toni Morrison, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Ta-Nehisi Coates and the banning of books about civil rights heroes like Martin Luther King are today’s echoes of the laws that made it illegal for enslaved people to learn how to read. 

The current campaign to stop educators from speaking the truth about structural racism in our classrooms comes from the same white supremacist underpinnings as the laws that sought to segregate Black children into underfunded schools during Jim Crow. Both put a “badge of inferiority” on Black students in American public schools. Banning books and classroom teachings about racial injustice are not new ideas, they are the latest implementation of tactics employed time and again in a long-standing project to prevent social progress from eliminating structural inequalities.

These same tactics were used by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, whose efforts to impose a falsified “Lost Cause” history included erecting monuments across the country and gaining control over school textbooks in order to depict the Civil War as being fought over “states rights” instead of the moral question of slavery. Due to the lasting impact of their regressive backlash, less than 10% of all students today are able to identify slavery as the cause of the Civil War. 

Now, we are again facing an organized campaign to keep students from learning the honest and inclusive history of the US. Since 2020, over 300 bills have been introduced at the federal and state levels to prevent students from understanding the full scope and significance of white supremacy in American history. This is pure indoctrination by those who want to ban all talk of structural racism in order to promote white supremacist explanations of enduring inequalities and disparities. 

Emboldened by these laws, so-called “parents’ rights” groups such as Moms for Liberty have successfully initiated thousands of book bans, challenging even titles like Ruby Bridges Goes to School. Just like the white mothers who formed textbook committees after the Civil War, or those who violently opposed integrated schools as an encroachment on “states rights,” the leaders of Moms for Liberty seek to rewrite history and twist the inclusion of Black histories into the exclusion of white students. These lies and distortions hurt all students and deprive them of the education they need. Our children deserve better.