About six months ago, the famous black children's author and illustrator Jerry Craft received a message that some of his books were being published in a school library in Texas.
"I was caught unawares," Craft, a writer who won the Newbery award for the 2019 novel "New Kid," told NBCBLK. “I was upset with the kids because I knew how much they liked‘ New Baby ’and‘ Class Act. ’I know what my school visit did. … I was hurt when I realized that there would be children who would not benefit from it. ”
The person who sent the message to Craft is from Katy, Texas, a town near Houston that has been attacked in an effort to reduce public access to anti-apartheid literature. In October, the Katy Independent School District made headlines with the release of two Craft textbooks temporarily, dealing with issues of Black boys facing racial discrimination in schools, libraries in schools and postponing her visible visits. A deleted petition with more than 400 signatures shows parents demanding that Craft tour be canceled.
At the time Craft wrote on Twitter that he was shocked by the allegations.
"Obviously, I teach a very sensitive racist theory," Craft wrote in response to a confused parent about the ban, citing a decades-old educational framework and law that teaches racism in America.
While the Texas school district is returning the book and re-organizing its tour, Craft is among a large number of Black writers whose works are taken out of school libraries on the grounds that they teach sensitive racist theory. (Most books aimed at banning do not teach critical racist theory but are also written by people of color.). The American Library Association said its Intellectual Freedom Office reported that 273 books were touched by research efforts by 2020, most of them with content highlighting race, gender and gender. Since September alone, there have been at least 230 challenges, the organization said in an email.
Tiffany D. Jackson, author of the 2018 novel “Monday Does Not Come,” which discusses girls lost in color, is embroiled in a similar controversy. At a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, parents demanded that Jackson's work be banned “for sexual misconduct,” reports the Loudoun-Times Mirror. In an email, Jackson, Black, said the book is about friendship, dyslexia, community, healing and about sex, though it can be done.
Fight for Schools, a local legal team seeking the removal of critical racist theory from school curricula, posted on Twitter a few clips of angry parents at a school board meeting reading short episodes from "Monday Doesn't Come" containing sexual content.
Jackson said the attack on his work is sad.
"It hurts to face this, to be considered such a beast, which is suspected of harming children," Jackson wrote in an email. “I had to go back and reread my book to see if we were reading the same story. MONDAY is not about sex. … Learning is important, but the context is everything, so it is sad to see these schools and parents being caught on the phone. ”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, said that many of these literary challenges are driven by social media and focus on issues of color.
"We are disappointed that there is a planned campaign to remove the voices of neglected communities from school library shelves," said Caldwell-Stone. "We are deeply saddened that the elected officials, who are responsible for upholding the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, are continuing their efforts to remove these documents."
These challenges also violate the rights of the First Amendment, he said.
"Using research as a tool is a violation of that freedom, especially the freedom of young people aimed at banning literature," said Caldwell-Stone.