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Censorship has reared its ugly head


During the worst months of the Covid lockdown, I read five nonfiction books focused on the African American experience. My first was historian David W. Blight’s biography, “Frederick Douglass Profit of Freedom”; then two books written by Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste” and “The Warmth of Other Suns”; then the autobiography “Becoming” by Michelle Obama; and Annette Gordon-Reed’s “Juneteenth.”
I finished reading the last of the five books just as the hottest educational topic, Critical Race Theory (CRT) became the lightning rod for attendees screaming at school board meetings. To be clear, this is the meaning of Critical Race Theory (CRT): A curriculum designed for discussion at the university level by law students.
Extremists on the right successfully grabbed CRT and reduced it to a lesson that is taught to students from elementary to high school. Not True.
It didn’t stop there. A school board representing students in York, Pa., announced its banning of nearly 50 books for grades kindergarten through senior high. Numerous books on this list were written by African Americans or other people of color – some from outside America. Students’ protests were successful in forcing the York School Board to revisit its decision.

The five nonfiction books I’d read during Covid will go on the shelves of my bookcase along with works about the Vietnam War, religion, politics, women, government, science, Native Americans, biographies, children’s books, fiction and metaphysics. Among this eclectic assortment of books are seven authors whose writings have been banned: William Styron, John Steinbeck, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, W.E.B. DuBois, J.K. Rowling and Vladimir Nabokov.
One other slim but powerful book on my shelf is “Burn This Book.” It’s a collection of essays by 11 published writers associated with PEN International (Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists). The essays explore the meaning of censorship and the power of literature to inform the way we see the world, and ourselves.
Doreen Stratton of Doylestown writes a blog, “The Bucks Underground Railroad.”