A project of the National Coalition Against Censorship
American Booksellers Foundation for Free ExpressionAssociation of American Publishers Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
19 Fulton Street, Suite 407, New York, NY 10038 212-807-6222 www.ncac.org/Kids-Right-to-Read
Kids’ Right to Read Project
Edward Pruden, Ed.D, Superintendent Members, School Board Brunswick County Schools 35 Referendum Drive Bolivia, NC 28422December 18, 2013Dear Dr. Pruden and Members of the Board, We are writing in regards to an on-going challenge to Alice Walker’s
The Color Purple
and its use in Advanced Placement (AP) English courses in Brunswick County Schools. It is our understanding that Pat Sykes, a Brunswick County Commis-sioner, has requested the book be removed from classroom use and has now appealed a recent positive evaluation of the
merits of the work. We urge you to resist pressure to censor from someone who nds a book offensive and to stand by the
professional judgment of district educators who selected the work because of its literary and educational merits.
The Color Purple
is an acclaimed work that won a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1982. It is part of the Ad-vanced Placement curriculum for English approved by the College Board, and has appeared frequently on the AP exam, including four times in the last six years. The book deals with many enduring literary themes and issues: the search for identity, the importance of freedom and independence, the struggle to overcome personal and societal limitations, the importance of education, and the power of narrative, as well as abuse, poverty, and patriarchy. While the book deals with some harsh situations and includes strong language, its overall message is one of love and forgiveness. Despite her limited opportunities and education and the sexual abuse she suffers, the main character, Celie, is ultimately able to overcome ad-versity, improving the lives of those around her –including her abusers – along the way. As your reconsideration commit-
tee unanimously found, the book has signicant literary and educational qualities. The words or content that some might
classify as objectionable in no way detract from the book’s merits, and may be essential to its power.
The challenge alleges that certain content in the book is “immoral,” “lthy” and “profane.” The language and situations in
this work, as in any text under study, however, must be seen in the context of the entire work. The ethical and literary val-ue of a work is distorted if one focuses only on particular words, passages, or segments. An author’s broad moral vision, total treatment of theme, and commitment to realistic portrayal of characters and dialogue are ignored when protesters focus only on aspects that are offensive to them. Purging classroom reading lists of works that contain profanity, harsh language or sexual situations would deny students access to vast numbers of valuable works of literature. Among the books containing similar language and situations which appear frequently in high school English Language Arts classrooms
Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Slaughterhouse-Five, As I Lay Dying
Bless Me, Ultima, Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,
not to mention the works of Dostoyevsky, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck. As these examples suggest, any attempt “to eliminate everything that is objectionable...will leave public schools in shreds. Nothing but educational confusion and a discrediting of the public school system can result....”
McCollum v. Board of Educ.
332 U.S. 203 (1948) (Jackson, J. concurring). What’s more, students who do not have access to the approved AP curriculum run the risk of being ill-prepared for the test.