When the Accomack County school district on the Eastern Shore pulled copies of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” and Mark Twain’s classic “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, one anonymous individual responded by immediately overnighting 50 copies of each title to the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads in Norfolk.
The shipment came with a statement from the patron that read, “These books had a huge effect on me when I was growing up in the Hampton Roads area. They highlighted racial issues I had never heard of or experienced myself. It is critical that every generation learn our shared history so that we can end cycles of racism and injustice.”
“We were stunned to read news reports that two classic novels were automatically banned by a local school in Accomack County, Virginia after a parental complaint,” said Gregory Rosenberg, President of the Board of Directors for ACCESS AIDS Care/LGBT Center of Hampton Roads.
The books, which discuss racial issues in America, both were written during times of significant racial intolerance and segregation. These two books are frequently the target of censorship, even though they are historically accurate and have been part of American culture for more than half a century.
Marie Rothstein-Williams the Eastern Shore parent who’s complaint spurred the removal of the books said, “There is so much racial slurs in there and offensive wording that you can’t get past that, and right now we are a nation divided as it is.”
Rothstein-Williams said the books’ use in schools would teach children that using the racial slur was acceptable.
“We’re validating that these words are acceptable. They are not acceptable,” she said. “We will lose our children if we continue to say that this is OK, that we validate these words when we should not.”
The LGBT Center library has thousands of books that are affirming for the queer community, as well as books that explore race, religion, sexuality, gender journeys, depression, isolation and other areas that affect our community at large. They may be checked out free of charge. The Center encourages borrowers to keep and share the books.
“We all must acknowledge our country’s history and milestones around racial equality. We at the LGBT Center will continue to shed light on injustices, and I’m proud to have these books available to our staff, our clients, and our community,” said Stacie-Walls Beegle, Executive Director of the ACCESS AIDS Care / LGBT Center of Hampton Roads.
The Accomack County school district will consider whether to ban “Huckleberry Finn” and “Mockingbird” after the novels are reviewed by a special committee.