Randolph County Schools Removes Book From Shelves
Eboni Bryson | Correspondent
Last week in a five to two vote, the Randolph County Board of Education banned the novel Invisible Man from libraries of all Randolph County schools.
This decision came after a mother complained to the board about the book’s “mature content.” In a 12-page written complaint, Kimiyutta Parson told the Randolph County Board of Education that the novel was “filthy,” and “too much for teenagers.”
Invisible Man was one of three books from which high school juniors could choose for summer reading for the 2013-14 school year. The others on the list were Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin and Passing by Nella Larsen.
According to a report from PBS, after receiving Parson’s letter, the board members each received a copy of the book to analyze themselves. Board Chair Tommy McDonald found the novel “a hard read,” while general member Gary Mason claimed he “didn’t find any literary value in [Invisible Man].” Mason also objected to language in the book. “I’m not for allowing it to be available,” he said.
Ultimately, McDonald, Mason and board members Tracy Boyles, Gary Cook and Matthew Lambeth voted in favor of the novel’s ban. Members Emily Coltrane and Todd Cutler voted against the ban.
Allison Quinn of NPR, described the novel as being “among the most famous novels dealing with black identity — and black invisibility — in America.”
Written by Ralph Ellison in 1952, Invisible Man tells the story of a nameless African American male narrator, who feels invisible due to his racial experience. The novel addresses many of the social and psychological issues faced by African Americans during this era, including personal and individual identity, as well as Black Nationalism. The novel won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953 and was included on TIME’s 100 Best English Novels from 1923-2005. According to PBS, the AP English Literature exam, taken by high school students to gain college credit, has featured passages from Invisible Man for 13 of the last 15 years, requiring a free response essay.
Some Randolph County residents have spoken out against the board’s decision. When former county resident- and current New York-based Poets & Writers editor- Evan Smith Rakoff heard about the ban, he said was “deeply ashamed.” He then arranged for Vintage Books to donate copies of the novel, which local high schoolers can pick up for free starting Sept. 25.
Since enacting the ban, the Randolph County Board of Education has been on the receiving end of negative media attention and press. This criticism may be the cause for a special meeting announced by the Board, concerning the reconsideration of the novel’s status. This meeting will be held on Wednesday Sept. 25.
Other African American novels that have been banned by schools across the nation.