Book Bans Inspire Black Students To Launch Book Clubs Featuring Black Authors

As adults across the nation lead the charge to ban Black history in the classroom as we know it, Black students are banning together to push back and to read Black authors.

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Amid nationwide outrage over schools teaching so-called critical race theory, school districts across the country have banned books by, and featuring, Black people and history. In some of these same schools, Black students have stepped up with solutions to the book bannings, including protesting the bans and starting their own book clubs with the freedom to choose what they read.

NBC News reported that Jaiden Johnson, a seventh grader at Meridian World School in Round Rock, Texas, founded Round Rock Black Students Book Club with another Black middle schooler. The virtual community group gives Black students an opportunity to focus on Black authors and characters, something that doesn't happen often in the classroom.

"It makes me feel good when I read about characters and they have the same skin color as me and they're not just, like, background characters, like in most books," he told NBC News.

In a report by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, only 11.9 percent of characters in young adult and children's literature feature children of color. Books by Black authors focused on historical and cultural Black topics, as well as books featuring Black main characters, have been targeted and disproportionately affected by the book bans. Johnson and other Black students took action against the book bans in the hope that Black students would have access to a variety of Black representation.

"I wanted a chance for all the Black kids in my community to get together and know each other better and read about Black characters that inspire us and not just about Black people and slavery," he told NBC News.

Texas is not alone in its book banning efforts. In late 2021, the Oklahoma State Senate introduced a bill prohibiting public school libraries from stocking and keeping books about sexual and gender identity. The war against critical race theory also includes school districts in Tennessee, Illinois, Oklahoma, Missouri, to name a few who have instituted book bans.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, told Education Week the organization is experiencing a growing number of complaints challenging books dealing with racism and Black American history and whether they belong in the hands of students.

The students, however, have spoken. Sisters and high school students Christina and Renee Ellis launched the Panther Anti-Racist Union at Central York High School, a majority-white school. The student group led a protest after the school's all-white school board banned books by James Baldwin and a title about Rosa Parks.

"We didn't want history to repeat itself, with hiding history, hiding the experiences of people of color in this country," Renee told NBC News. "We also wanted to make sure that the younger kids underneath got a full education, especially with the murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor and so many other social justice issues in America."

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