Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association. The campaign celebrates the freedom to read by highlighting banned and challenged books. Banned Book Week starts September 18th and ends September 24th. The week began in 1982 as a response to the surge of books in schools, bookstores and libraries being challenged. During this time, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot ban books in libraries simply because of its content in the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case.
As we take this week to acknowledge banned books, we created a list of banned books written by Black Authors that we recommend you read this week and beyond.
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1. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
“The Color Purple” depicts the reunion of African American sisters separated at an early age. The story is set in rural Georgia during the early twentieth century. The novel addresses topics of abuse, pain, growth, and resilience.
“The Color Purple” is banned because of graphic sexual content, scenes of violence, and abuse.
Purchase “The Color Purple” on Amazon here
2. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” follows Janie Crawford’s journey back to her roots.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” is banned because of graphic sexual content and language.
Purchase “Their Eyes Were Watching God” on Amazon here
3. Native Son by Richard Wright
Richard Wright depicts the downward spiral of Bigger Thomas, a Black male who kills a young white woman in a moment of panic. “Native Son” is set in Chicago during the 1930s.
“Native Son” is banned because of graphic sexual content and language.
Purchase “Native Son” on Amazon here
4. The New Kid by Jerry Craft
“The New Kid” is about seventh grader Jordan Banks, who is torn between the worlds of his prestigious school and his neighborhood. The story is based on Craft’s life.
“The New Kid” is banned because of claims the book promotes Critical Race Theory and Marxism.
Purchase “The New Kid” on Amazon here
5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Invisible Man is the story of a Black man’s search for his identity and visibility in America. The novel addresses social and intellectual issues faced by African Americans in the early twentieth century.
“Invisible Man” is banned because of graphic sexual content and language.
Purchase “Invisible Man” on Amazon here
6. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is Maya Angelou’s autobiography. The novel describes her “coming of age” story, which vividly describes the pain and trauma she endured.
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is banned because of language, portrayal of violence, racism, sexuality, and sexual content.
Purchase “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” on Amazon here
7. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
“The Bluest Eye” is based in Lorain, Ohio during the Great Depression. Morrison writes about Pecola Breedlove who prays for her eyes to turn blue like the beloved blond-haired, blue-eyed children in America. Breedlove’s life changes in painful ways throughout the novel.
“The Bluest Eye” is banned because of sexual content, abuse, and language.
Purchase “The Bluest Eye” on Amazon here
8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
“The Hate U Give” is about a police brutality incident that sixteen-year-old Starr Carter witnesses. The fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil, who was unarmed, became a national headline. As narratives spur about Khalil and his death nationwide, Starr stands as the only person alive that witnessed what happened.
“The Hate U Give” is banned because of language and claims the book promotes an anti-police message.
Purchase “The Hate U Give” on Amazon here
9. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” takes readers on a race journey from past to present. The novel amplifies the Black voice and gaze on race.
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” is banned because of claims the book contents “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
Purchase “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” on Amazon here
10. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” is named after the year (1619) in which the first group of enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the U.S. The novel is a collection of essays that analyzes how slavery continues to impact us today.
“The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones is being petitioned to be banned because of claims that the book promotes Critical Race Theory.
Purchase “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story” on Amazon here