Accomac is a cozy little community situated on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a 70 mile stretch of land tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. The city of Accomac is home to the Accomack County Public Schools headquarters, servicing over 5,000 children in 11 different facilities. There is currently a situation occuring, where if one parent in Accomac has their way, none of those students will be allowed to read, or even discuss two well known classic novels by award winning American authors.
As reported by Kens5.com, a formal compliant has been filed to stop the use of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” because there are 219 racial slurs embedded in Mark Twain’s classic and 49 found on the pages of Harper Lee’s chronicle. According to The Telegraph, it was “Marie Rothstein-Williams, the mother of a mixed race child,” who followed the school’s procedures in making a formal complaint. Rothstein-Williams believes that hearing these words validates their acceptability and children cannot be taught to think that these words are ok. (Out of the 5,000 students in the school system, 37% are of African American descent.) It appears Ms. Rothstein-Williams doesn’t want the students to have a learning experience where the children can hear these classic books and debate these very issues amongst themselves.
Accomack County Public Schools is making a formal inquiry into the matter by forming a committee to review the material. The books are suspended from use until the principal, library media specialist, parent and teacher(s) make the final recommendations.
This isn’t the first time Mark Twain or Harper Lee have found their literary compositions on a banned list. Virginia University’s Library points out that since 1885, when “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” was first released, “it was condemned as racist” and immediately “banished” from the Concord Public Library. Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” currently holds the number four position on a list called Banned & Challenged Classics, put together by the American Library Association (ALA) who work to defend the First Amendment and protect your right to read whatever you want to read.
ALA stresses that a book challenge – like the case at the Accomack County Public Schools – is not a book ban. But, when it comes to censorship, they urge us to remember the words of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas:
“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us. ”