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Reading is Fundamental: To Know or Not to Know

By Nzingha Nommo

Presented by Omni-U Virtual University

Books have taken center stage for good, bad, and, some would say, ugly reasons. Record levels of interest in books started in 2020.


This Post will:


(1)Discuss and list the books challenged during the Judge Ketanji Brown- Jackson Confirmation Hearings,


(2)List challenged books according to the 2/3/2022 Ingram Publishing Group.

(3)Provide resources to fight book bans happening across the country.


During the Jackson Confirmation Hearings, books associated with "Critical Race Theory" were offered up, as political fodder, to the Supreme Court Justice nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown -Jackson who was repeatedly asked whether or not she agreed with -or practiced- the "theory" .


After the murder of George Floyd, interest in books on Black people and the Black experience skyrocketed, Never before, in our 28-year history, had Afriware Books Company sold Books by the hundreds without having an author present. And,our story was duplicated around the country by over 100 other Black-owned bookstores.[1]


A story is told just by examining the sales of our top 2 titles, "White Fragility," and "How to Be AntiRacist", in the wake of his murder. . Over twelve hundred (1200+) and seven hundred plus (700+) copies were sold, respectively. In June of 2020,The NY TImes reported a similar phenomenon in "People Are Marching Against Racism. They’re Also Reading About It." They reported that 5 of their top 15 best sellers address racism whereas ,in May, there were none.This heinous crime apparently moved many to re-educate themselves about the Black experience. Some of the comments we received, along with the deluge of orders , were revealing:


"The murder of George Floyd exposed how far up the racist support structure went …"


"Hoping to unlearn racism and do my part to make lasting change. Supporting you from San Antonio, TX!"


"Thank you for helping people educate themselves and others. Black lives matter."


"Thank you so much for all you are doing. I stand with you."


It was refreshing to get a boost in sales, though it was also bitterly sweet because of the context in which it occurred. Black booksellers have long identified the importance of these books. Now that the general public is actively seeking them out, an unprecedented urgency is added..


"Critical Race Theory"


One of the many take-aways from the hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown- Jackson was the accusation about "Critical Race Theory" from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. He mentioned the term 5 times during the Brown-Jackson Confirmation Hearings and even brought out boards to show illustrations from "Antiracist Baby" by Ibram X. Kendi.[2] The books he referenced were:


1619 Project: A New Origin Story - Nikole Hannah-Jones


Critical Race Theory - an Introduction Edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic


The End of Policing by Alex Vitale


How to be an AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi


AntiRacist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi


Stamped for Kids by Ibram X. Kendi


"Critical Race Theory" was used as a political buzz -word. Cruz made several attempts -unsuccessfully- to entrap'Brown- Jackson into aligning herself with the concept or to prove that she was in agreement with it. If she were caught using or practicing it, it would become obvious that she would not be fit to be a Supreme Court Justice- at least not in his opinion.[3]


In a previous Afriware Books blog post, "Books on Critical Race Theory - Primary Resources", we mentioned that Derrick Bell was viewed as one of the founders of "Critical Race Theory" when he was at Harvard Law School. It is interesting to note that, in a recent online interview with Nikole Hannah -Jones, the author of "The 1619 Project", she indicated that she was not a "Critical Race Theorist" and that it was part of a propaganda campaign to misuse and confuse the two. Both are being fused and misrepresented as a curriculum that teaches kids to hate their country.

It is also interesting that one of the titles Cruz mentioned, "How to Be an AntiRacist", was one of the bestsellers for Black booksellers. Also, "The 1619 Project - A New Origin Story", was a NY Times Bestseller for over 18 weeks, and its author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, received a 2020 Pulitzer prize for her introductory essay in the NY Times magazine handout that preceded the book. According to the author's website, "The1619 Project.." commemorates the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery- in what would become the United States- by examining slavery's modern legacy and reframing the way we understand this history and the contributions of [B]lack Americans to the nation". There is a curriculum provided with the book as well .


In spite of this notoriety, some politicians have decided to use their position to create a bully pulpit from which to castigate these titles and their efforts are growing. Unfortunately, as the election season draws nearer, it doesn't seem likely this will let up. [4,5]


Of the 100 challenged books listed on supplier Ingram Book Group's website, as provided by the American Library Association (as of 2/3/2022), twenty-seven are categorized as African American. They include:


  • Between the World and Me. Coates, Ta-Nehisi


  • The Bluest Eye. Morrison, Toni


  • Class Act .Craft, Jerry


  • New Kid. Craft, Jerry


  • Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice. Browne, Mahogany, L.; Acevedo, Elizabeth; Gatwood, Olivia ; Taylor, Theodore; Reynolds, Jason


  • All American Boys. Reynolds, Jason ; Kiely, Brendan


  • Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning, Stamped from the Beginning. Reynolds, Jason; Kendi, Ibram X


  • We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. Hudson, Wade ; Hudson, Cheryl Willis;


  • The Hate U Give Thomas,

Angie; Giovanni, Nikki


  • Racial Justice in America: Topics for Change. Wing, Kelisa; Nichols, Hedreich; Erickson, Leigh Ann;


  • King and the Dragonflies. Callender, Kacen.


  • All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto. Johnson, George M.


  • Monday's Not Coming. Jackson, Tiffany D.


  • Ghost Boys. Rhodes, Jewell Parker


  • Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter. King, Shani; Martin, Bobby C.


  • The Color Purple. Walker, Alice


  • Salvage the Bones. Ward, Jesmyn


  • A Good Kind of Trouble. Ramée, Lisa Moore


  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice. Celano, Marianne; Collins, Marietta; Hazzard. Ann; Zivoin, Jennifer;


  • Beloved. Morrison, Toni


  • This Is Your Time. Bridges, Ruby


  • A Lesson Before Dying. Gaines, Ernest J.


  • All American Boys (Reprint). Reynolds, Jason; Kiely, Brendan


  • 2020 Black Lives Matter Marches. Markovics, Joyce


  • 47 Mosley, Walter


  • Fallen Angels (Special Anniversary). Myers, Walter Dean;


Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to the Streets. Tyner, Artika R.



*The complete list contains 850 books from Texas State Representative Matt Krause according to a CNN video, "Librarians fight back against push to ban books from schools." A copy of the letter from Rep. Krause can be found on the Freadom.us website.


We join Librarians and all civil- minded individuals around the country in support of our basic human right to the freedom to read and encourage everyone to speak out through social media/letters/protests against it. Since April was National Library Month, we urge you to join in the campaign of "Drop Everything and Read Banned Books:


www.freadom.us/campaigns-actions

as detailed on the website.


I appreciate that you have read through this blog post. I hope that you’ve become curious to read more about Banned Books, books on Critical Race Theory, and ways to support the freedom to read We ask that you consider purchasing your books from our Black- owned bookstore, Afriware Books, Company. If there is a title you’d like to purchase that is not mentioned here, or could not be found on the website, feel free to email us at: afriwarebooks@afriwarebooks.com


Blog Notes

1. A Bittersweet Moment For Black Bookstore Owners


2. WATCH: Sen. Ted Cruz questions Jackson in Supreme Court confirmation hearings - Youtube video


3. "Ted Cruz gave the nation a lesson on misreading kids books" https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/2022/03/23/ted-cruz-ketanji-brown-jackson-books/


4. Freedom to Read Roundtable in Texas Zoom Call hosted by Booklist - Fill in registration and you can access the previously held zoom call. State Rep. Erin Zwiener says,"...I think this has been a way to rile up the right wing base as we go into Republican Primary Season."


5. MSNBC - Nikole Hannah-Jones Links Critical Race Theory Backlash To Spread Of Voter Suppression


Blog Resource Guide


How to Fight Book Bans - a Tip Sheet for Students


Texas "Critical Race Theory" Laws

Map on States with "Critical Race Theory" Laws and those seeking to restrict or expand education on racism, bias, the contributions of specific racial or ethnic groups to U.S. history, or related topics.


Search: Texas Right to Read Statement




Here is the link to the ALA with the complete list by Decade/Year:

Link

https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks


Freedom To Read Organization - Not for profit arm of American Library Association

https://www.freadom.us/ @FreadomFighters - Twitter account for librarians for support when accused of forcing pornography/obscene content on students.


“Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.” by the NY Times, 2022. According to the article, challenges are being made to libraries and school boards “at a pace not seen in decades.”


Recommended Reading


Lewis R. Gordon. Fear of Black Consciousness



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