Fifty-seven years after it was first published, To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned from the public school district in Biloxi, Mississippi on Oct. 14. The 20th century classic about racism in a small town in Alabama was taken off the schools’ reading lists for its objectionable language. The school board’s Vice President, Kenny Holloway, defended their position, saying, “There is some language in the book that makes people uncomfortable.”
Earlier this month, Biloxi officials said that their eighth grade students would no longer be required to read the book. Its reported “racist language” allegedly made some people uneasy. However, the district’s curriculum guide previously called the book “a classic with a focus on developing an appreciation for how ethical principles or laws of life can help people live successfully.”
After this news was brought to the media, many people across the nation were outraged and quick to defend the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee whose lessons were taught in countless classrooms and influenced generations of readers. Many saw it as a lost opportunity for students to have real life conversations about their country’s history. “In a state like Mississippi, where we continue to deal with racial injustices and discrimination even today, it is critical that our students have the opportunity to engage on the themes presented in To Kill a Mockingbird,” the American Mississippi Civil Liberties Union stated..
Last week, the public school board in Mississippi said that it would give students the option of reading the novel, but only with a parent’s permission. However, on Oct. 23, Scott Powell, the junior high school principal in Biloxi, informed parents that students would be able to study the book in classrooms again starting on Oct. 20.
The Biloxi School Board was under fire and received letters from across the country, urging that the book remain in the curriculum. “These derogatory and offensive words are powerful; they make people uncomfortable because they are painful to hear. However, it is critical that discrimination, offensive language, and racism are discussed in the classroom,” the students wrote. The students that wrote the letter continued by saying, “We need a book like To Kill a Mockingbird to illustrate the extreme prejudice that existed in our country’s past and to help start a conversation about the issues that sadly still exist today.”