Reading in the Time of COVID

During the worst months of the COVID lockdown, I’d read five non-fiction 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 lastly 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, Pennsylvania announced their banning of nearly 50 books for grades K 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 their decision.

The five non-fiction 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 the image below. Eleven published writers associated with PEN International (Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists). As noted on the front cover, “Burn This Book is a collection of essays that explore the meaning of censorship and the power of literature to inform the way we see the world, and ourselves.”

Edited by and with an introduction by Toni Morrison.

My next post will include a review of Historian David W. Blight’s award-winning biography–Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom. I hope to counter the ignorance about African American history often expressed by those who say–“Black people need to move on… stop talking about the past.”

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