The Randolph County Board of Education in North Carolina has banned Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” a canonical and cornerstone piece of American literature. On Monday night, the board held a vote where the motion to ban the book won by a 5-2 margin.
A parent of a student attending Randleman High School complained about the book in a letter to the board, calling the book “filthy.” She cited the “type of language used in the book and its sexual content.”
“This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers,” wrote parent Kimiyutta Parsons. “You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge.”
First of all, “young children” were not reading the book. “Invisible Man” was placed on a summer reading list for junior-year high school honor students, making up a list of three including: “Passing” by Nella Larsen and “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin.
The most shortsighted and ridiculous claims made by the board to justify banning the book come from board member Gary Mason. After reading the book, he stated that he “didn’t find any literary value. I’m for not allowing it to be available.” Apparently, literary experts are no longer needed to determine the value of literature.
“Invisible Man” has been taught in classrooms for decades, and for good reason. Of the book, Ellison said he wanted to recapture “the mood of personal moral responsibility for democracy.” That’s a good theme, and a wholesome, worthwhile one that is beneficial for students to explore.
It’s insane that the Randolph school board would ban such an iconic work just because one parent got offended by one book. The move is also a bit selfish on Parsons’ part. If you’re that offended by that particular book, have your child choose another one from the list.
It’s senseless to axe an entire part of a curriculum and cheat the other students out of an incredible learning experience because of colorful language.