Target: Tommy McDonald, Chairperson of Randolph County Board of Education
Goal: Applaud decision to not ban book by African-American author
Invisible Man, the classic 1952 novel by Ralph Ellison about an anonymous African-American man who considers himself invisible to white-dominated society, was recently banned by the Randolph County Board of Education. The ban, which passed in a 5-2 vote, came after the mother of an eleventh grader protested it as being “too much for teenagers” due to its subject and language. However, in response to protests, the decision to ban the book has been reversed. Applaud this decision in support of intellectual freedom and education.
Ellison’s novel, listed as one of the “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress, did not test well among board members at the hearing to remove it. One stated he saw no “literary value” in the book while another called it a “hard read.”
Admittedly, a “hard read” is exactly what Invisible Man is. The novel tracks Ellison’s protagonist as he moves to Harlem from the South and becomes involved with a Black Nationalist group. Ellison, in a letter to a literary agent about how he wanted to explore identity issues and social alienation caused by racism, wrote “The invisible man will move upward through Negro life, coming into contact with its various forms and personality types…He is also to be a depiction of a certain type of Negro humanity that operates in the vacuum created by white America in its failures to see Negroes as human.”
When uncompromising but honest examinations of history are banned as being “too much for teenagers” or indeed any other group, who benefits? Education should be about encouraging students to see new perspectives and to think critically, both about the past and today. By signing this petition, you applaud the decision to not ban Invisible Man from schools.
Dear Mr. McDonald,
Recently, the decision to ban Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison was reversed. Ellison’s classic novel, listed as one of the “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress, was attacked by members of the Board as being a “hard read” and having “no literary value.”
Admittedly, Invisible Man was indeed written to be what one board member called a “hard read.” Ellison used the character of an anonymous African-American “invisible man” to explore the impact of racism on black identity in early 20th century America. By its nature, the book contains mature themes, situations and language.
The issue here is if this should be used as a justification for banning Invisible Man within the school district. It absolutely should not. Education should be about encouraging students to see new perspectives and to think critically, both about the past and today. Therefore I applaud the decision to not ban this book from schools.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: United States Information Agency staff photographer via Flickr