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September 30, 2021

Banned Books Week this year is from September 26 to October 2. Some of the books banned in the 21st century may surprise you. See the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists” from 2001-2020. Locally, it strikes a chord because after nearly a year-long “review process” a ban on several books by a school district in York, PA has been rescinded.

The Central York School District’s imposed ban was focused on antiracist works and those written by people of color, including the story of the life of Pakistani activist for female education, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Malala Yousafzai, and children’s books about luminaries of the Civil Rights movement, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The ban extended to a documentary about renowned 20th-century man of letters, public intellectual and activist, James Baldwin, and even an episode of Sesame Street.

In the last week both demonstrations and the final lifting of the ban made the national news. Many high school students and parents in the district opposed the ban, but it was the actions of one concerned citizen using social media which spurred the donation from across the country of copies of the books which were distributed publicly in celebration of them no longer being banned. To its credit the York County Libraries also contributed to the protest in the form of an official letter from their president denouncing the banning of books and audio-visual materials because they are on diversity, race, and racism.

The American Library Association provides varied resources and avenues for action for Banned Books Week. According to “The event is sponsored by a coalition of organizations dedicated to free expression, including American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People For the American Way Foundation; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.”

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