Award-winning children’s book author Derrick Barnes was scheduled to visit three schools in Alabama during Black History Month. But just before Barnes’ planned appearances in February, the invitation to Hoover and Alabaster City Schools was abruptly canceled.
Initially, the school district cited a “recent change” and claimed Barnes had failed to provide the information required to offer a contract. However, The New York Times best-selling author stated that implying that there were contract issues was a “boldfaced lie” and that the cancellations were political and motivated by ignorance and fear.
He said the cancellations are part of a nationwide trend of “limiting access to books that feature Black protagonists and books that tell the truth about American history.”
In K–12 schools in Alabama, Critical Race Theory (CRT) was outlawed in 2021 by the state board of education. Alabama is one of many state governments with a predominately Republican majority that opposes CRT, an academic framework to examine systemic racism that is largely taught in law schools and not covered in primary or secondary education.
“I hate this so much because, like most writers, I’m an introvert,” Barnes told WIAT-TV, Alabama’s local CBS News affiliate. “I try to stay very low key and write the books that I write and hope that children fall in love.”
Schools Superintendent Dee Fowler later admitted that Barnes had provided some of the requested information but not all of it. According to Alabama.com, a parent’s complaint about Barnes “controversial ideas” is what prompted the cancellation.
“This has got to stop,” Barnes posted on Instagram. “Children are being short-changed, and the livelihood of children’s book authors are being affected in a major way.”
According to the ACLU, a long list of well-known works of Black literature has been outlawed by school administrators across the nation, including Richard Wright’s Native Son, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
Barnes is the author of Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, which has received numerous honors, including a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers, according to his website. Crown, a children’s book published in 2017, is what he planned to read to Alabama students.
Barnes told WIAT-TV that his children’s books contain no rationally objectionable content and that reading them can benefit children of all races.
“It’s important that white children, too, get a chance to see children that don’t look like them doing the same things they do: having a family, having people around them that love and care about them, and just doing everyday things,” he said.