George Orwell was a communist and Harper Lee was a racist.

There are times, dear reader, when you realise that it is almost impossible to overestimate the ability of stupid people to be cataclysmically dumb.

Now you know, dear reader, because you are a dear reader, that from time to time it is possible to come across books that force you to think. To use the little grey cells for the purpose for which God gave them to you, and actually consider the world around you and the ideas of the people who occupy it. But some people are actively frightened at this prospect. What’s worse, some of them have children, and they seek to prevent them thinking too. This is where censorship of school libraries rears its ugly head.

Let me be perfectly clear – I am all in favour of protecting children from harmful material. What I am not in favour of is hiding them from material that is merely controversial, and I am not alone in this. The American Library Association maintains a watch on all attempts to censor the reading materials in American libraries, and publishes the details on its website. However, for some light relief I was browsing the ‘challenged classics’ section, and I thought I’d share some of the more startling attempts with you…

To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

Challenged in the Vernon Verona Sherill, N.Y School District (1980) as a “filthy, trashy novel.” Challenged at the Warren, Ind.Township schools (1981) because the book does “psychological damage to the positive integration process” and “represents institutionalized racism under the guise of good literature.”…Banned from the Lindale,Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book “conflicted with the values of the community.”(Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

The Lord of the Flies (William Golding)

Challenged at the Owen, N.C. High School (1981) because the book is “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal”…A committee of the Toronto, Canada Board of Education ruled on June 23, 1988, that the novel is “racist and recommended that it be removed from all schools.” Parents and members of the black community complained about a reference to “niggers” in the book and said it denigrates blacks…(Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

1984 (George Orwell)

Challenged in the Jackson County, FL (1981) because Orwell’s novel is “pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter.” (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

Of Mice And Men (George Steinbeck)

Just for the record, I consider this to be one of the two finest American novels ever written. Oh, and I’ve only picked the creme de la creme of the lunacy for this one – GB

Challenged in Greenville, S.C. (1977) by the Fourth Province of the Knights of the Ku Klux KIan…Challenged as a summer youth program reading assignment in Chattanooga, Tenn. (1989) because “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude.” In addition, “he was very questionable as to his patriotism’…Removed and later returned to the Suwannee, Fla. High School library (1991) because the book is “indecent”…In 1992 a coalition of community members and clergy in Mobile, Ala., requested that local school officials form a special textbook screening committee to “weed out objectionable things:” Steinbeck’s novel was the first target because it contained “profanity” and “morbid and depressing themes”…Challenged as an appropriate English curriculum assignment at the Mingus, Ariz.Union High School (1993) because of “profane language, moral statement, treatment of the retarded, and the violent ending.”… A citizen group, the 100 Black United, Inc., requested the novel’s removal and “any other inadmissible literary books that have racial slurs in them, such as the using of the word ‘Nigger: ” Challenged as a reading list assignment for a ninth grade literature class, but retained at the Sauk Rapids Rice High School in St. Cloud, Minn. (1997). A parent complained that the book’s use of racist language led to racist behavior and racial harassment…Challenged in the Normal, Ill. Community High Schools (2003) because the books contains “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values.” (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)

Again for the record, this is the other finest American novel I’ve ever read – GB

Banned in Strongsville, Ohio (1972), but the school board’s action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District. Challenged at the Dallas, Tex. Independent School District high school libraries (1974); in Snoqualmie, Wash. (1979) because of its several references to “whores.” (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide, Robert P. Doyle.)

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

Removed from classroom in Miller, MO (1980), because it made promiscuous sex “look like fun”…Challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco, California Unified School District (1993) because it is “centered around negative activity.” Specifically, parents objected that the characters’ sexual behavior directly opposed the health curriculum, which taught sexual abstinence until marriage…Removed from the Foley, Ala. High School Library (200) pending review, because a parent complained that its characters showed contempt for religion, marriage, and family.  The parent complained to the school and to Alabama Governor Don Siegelman…(Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

Banned in Italy (1929) because of its painfully accurate account of the Italian retreat from Caporetto, Italy…burned by the Nazis in Germany (1933)…challenged at the Vernon-Verona-Sherill, N.Y. School District (1980) as a “sex novel”(Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)

Challenged in Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because the novel uses the word “nigger.” (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey)

Challenged as part of the curriculum in an Aberdeen, Washington High School honors English class (1986) because the book promotes “secular humanism.” The school board voted to retain the title. Challenged at the Placentia-Yorba Linda, California Unified School District (2000) after complaints by parents stated that teachers “can choose the best books, but they keep choosing this garbage over and over again.” (Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide, by Robert P. Doyle.)

Slaughterhouse-5 (Kurt Vonnegut)

Challenged in many communities, but burned in Drake, N. Dak (1973). Banned in Rochester, Mich. because the novel “contains and makes references to religious matters” and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause…Retained on the Northwest Suburban High School District 214 reading list in Arlington Heights, Ill. (2006), along with eight other challenged titles.  A board member, elected amid promises to bring her Christian beliefs into all board decision-making, raised the controversy based on excerpts from  the books she’d found on the internet…(Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

The Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)

Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic. (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)

And finally…I had to include this one because the action taken was like something out of ‘Wacky Races’! – GB

Sons and Lovers (DH Lawrence)

In 1961 an Oklahoma City group called Mothers United for Decency hired a trailer, dubbed it “smutmobile,” and displayed books deemed objectionable, including Lawrence’s novel. (Source: 2007 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.)


So there you have it – 12 cases of authentic idiocy, recorded for the ages. Now, to the smutmobile, fellow crusaders!

And here is your moment of zen for today:

About Gavin

I am a 32-year-old PhD student in Aberdeen, Scotland. I work in QC at an e-learning company. I'm originally Northern Irish, though I've lived here in Aberdeen for several years. I am, essentially, somebody who is very normal, yet to whom very strange things keep happening...
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3 Responses to George Orwell was a communist and Harper Lee was a racist.

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