Banned Books Week
September 24–30, 2017
“Book banning” is as antiquated a term as it is a practice – isn’t it? Not according to the American Library Association. Between 2000 and 2009 alone, more than 5,000 challenges to remove books from libraries and schools were raised because of “sexually explicit” content, “offensive language,” “violence,” “homosexuality,” and materials deemed “unsuited to age group.”
Despite strides taken to reduce censorship, books continue to be challenged for their language and depictions of violence and sex. Banned Books Week is an annual event held by librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers to discuss the importance of literary freedom. (Spoiler alert: more to come for Link of the Week on Wednesday!)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s bestselling anti-slavery novel – credited for helping to bring about the Civil War – is considered by many historians to be the first book in the history of the United States to have been banned on a national scale.
After its publication in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was barred from bookstores because of its “pro-abolitionist agenda.” Preventing the book from reaching popular circles, however, proved an impossible task for the Confederacy. Stowe’s work became so widespread that President Abraham Lincoln said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war,” when he met her in 1862.
To take part in this event, our Quote of the Week features the woman who started it all: Harriet Beecher Stowe.
“Scenes of blood and cruelty are shocking to our ear and heart. What man has nerve to do, man has not nerve to hear.” – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe was born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1811 to a family committed to social justice. (Her father was a progressive Congregationalist minister, her sister Catharine was an author and teacher, and her other sister, Isabella, was a leader in the fight for women’s rights at the time.) As an act of protest against Congress’s passing of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which sold 300,000 copies in its first three months of life. She remained a prominent and influential figure in the North until her death in 1896.