In the News: Oregon Shakespeare Festival Boycotting Bookstore

Banned and Challenged Books, Banned Books Week, Censorship

By: Linsey Milillo

With Banned Books Week fast approaching, intellectual freedom and censorship is on many people’s minds. A recent news article out of Oregon brings this continued discussion to light once again. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) has chosen to boycott a local bookstore based on what it considers a racially offensive book display.

hfEach September, the Shakespeare Books & Antiques bookstore in Ashland, Oregon, features a banned books display featuring works such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) and Little Black Sambo (1937) as a means to educate visitors regarding frequently challenged and banned books. The store’s owner, Judi Honoré, states that this same display has been featured for a number of years and this is the first year of any such complaints.

The OSF drafted a letter asking that the items be taken down from public view; however, Ms. Honoré refused, citing that these books should be available in such times as a means of education, not for promoting racial insensitivity. She is not without her supporters, including City Councilor Carol Voisin. Following Ms. Honoré’s refusal, the OSF has called for a boycott of all goods and services which the festival might have purchased from the bookstore.

What is at stake here is the continuing discussion of intellectual freedom. That the display might offend some is not the point, rather that these books were banned for a reason and that such a display should create a dialogue concerning our past, present and future. Sometimes thlbse harsh truths behind the past are unpleasant. The question is not about how to create palatable displays for all sensibilities, but rather what lessons might be garnered from the situation. This certainly is a teachable moment for all when works such as Huckleberry Finn and Little Black Sambo might be discussed alongside contemporary titles such as the Harry Potter series and Perks of Being a Wallflower in order to break down racial, ethical and generational barriers.

Linsey Milillo works in teen and adult reference services for the Lane Libraries in Fairfield, Ohio. She’s an avid blogger with interest in reviews, programming and discussing timely issues at the center of library and information services.


  • Hi Linsey: Thanks so much for this article. I don’t see a way to reach you directly so I am leaving this comment. I wondered if you might be interested in talking further. It’s a multi-faceted story and the local Ashland media has done a very poor job of conveying the facts. I’ll leave my contact info below. Sincerely, Eddie

  • Only 1 factual correction: this is an ongoing display. Of course, that does not detract from your point.

  • Like many stories, this one is complex. See here for the latest: Was the boycott the cause of this decision? Is the bookstore moving to a new location? The stories within the community are that some of the actors originally just asked the bookstore owner to separate the copies of Little Black Sambo and the Wizard of Oz, which had been displayed next to each other — not to remove the book altogether. The troupe is doing the Wiz, an all-black production of the Wizard of Oz, in the future. Oregon, like many places, has some history of racism. Originally, the bookstore owner moved the book, but later moved it back. It can be difficult to sort out just who said what to whom. But Linsey is quite correct that this offers a teachable moment.

  • I was very disappointed to hear that the bookstore was closed. I have moved out of the area, but visited that area last week. Judi had an old leather bound collection that she had up on a shelf behind the counter that I was really hoping to purchase. If anyone knows how to get a hold of her, I would be truly greatful. If there is a number I can call or an email for her that would be awesome.

  • Judy has a store on A Street in Ashland – Recycled Furniture. She’s as active as ever. The Festival is taking a hit with people withdrawing their memberships and canceling legacy donations.

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