Each year, for the last week of September, libraries across the country come together to support Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and opposes censorship and the suppression of ideas and voices.
Our new exhibit in the Stone Center Library displays books that have been banned or challenged over the years. A challenge is an attempt to remove a book based on a person or group’s objections; a banning is when the book is actually removed from a curriculum or library.
Though books are very rarely challenged or banned explicitly for racial reasons, it is often an underlying factor. The American Library Association noted in 2015 that 9 of the top 10 banned and challenged books contained diverse content – non-white, LGBTQ, or disabled characters, or books that address issues of race, sexuality, religion, and mental illness. In our exhibit, we highlight banned and challenged books that were written by Black authors or that deal with issues of race and racism.
Some of the books highlighted in our exhibit – and available for checkout in the Stone Center Library! – include:
- Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which has been challenged eighteen times since its publication, for reasons including “rough language” and “explicit sex scenes.”
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, challenged in five different states for explicit language. Complaints referred to the book as “filth,” “trash,” and “repulsive.”
- Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God has been repeatedly challenged for “sexual explicitness” and its use of profanity.
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, has been challenged multiple times over “concerns about profanity and images of violence and sexuality in the book.”
- Richard Wright’s Native Son, challenged for its “violence, sex, and profanity.”
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which has been called a “how-to manual for crime.” Challengers also alleged that the book should be banned because the author and subject “advocated anti-white racism and violence.”
Also available at other UNC libraries:
- Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The book has been challenged thirty-five times in twenty different states since its publication. Complains have alleged that the book is “sexually explicit,” “anti-white,” and “encouraging homosexuality.”
For more information about Banned Books Week, check out the links below!