Katie Chamberlain Kritikos: The impetus for this talkback was the controversy surrounding the publication in January of this year of a children’s book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington. Because critics instantly condemned the book for its depiction of smiling slaves, publisher Scholastic Press withdrew the book and halted its distribution.
This withdrawal encapsulates the shifting social context of intellectual freedom in the United States. Traditionally, free speech advocates decry any attempt to suppress expression. A growing emphasis on social justice creates tension between the foundation and the future of intellectual freedom. This post considers the recent controversies over children’s books, trigger warnings, and free speech online to explore this crossroads of information policy.
January 29, 2016 – A free biweekly compilation of news by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom including: current book challenges in libraries and schools; articles about privacy, internet filtering and censorship; ALA activities, conferences and institutes, products, online learning opportunities, awards and grants, international exchanges; and how to get involved and make the most of what ALA offers.
I must admit that I am concerned with the current trend of attempting to censor or ban children’s books that are not in keeping with one’s political or historical beliefs. I can understand that some books are wrong, outdated or even incorrect. I myself am often not happy with the salacious or overly violent content of some of the books in my library, but my job is to educate my students and to support their First Amendment rights.
Usually, we think of censorship as the formal action of a government or government official: a school principal pulls a book from the high school library, a public library board votes to remove a title from the catalog, a university fires a professor who publishes something unpopular.
A Birthday Cake for George Washington, written by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, is a little different. This one, published by Scholastic, and immediately criticized for its portrayal of smiling slaves, has been withdrawn BY SCHOLASTIC.