From The Archives

From the Montgomery Herald, October 6 1963:

Alabama’s Department of Education has ruled against the inclusion of a novel about a romance between a White woman and a Black man in the English high school curriculum because it feared it could raise tensions among pupils, an official said on Thursday.

Alabaman media said some teachers requested Dorothy Roberts’s novel, “Borderlife,” be included in the high school curriculum but a department official said a committee rejected the book, as it could push up already high racial tensions.

“The book could incite hatred and cause emotional storms (in the classroom),” Donna Ferrel, who headed the department committee that decides which literary works are on the curriculum, told Montgomery’s KR104 Radio.

Roberts said her award-winning book, whose love story plot line takes place in London, had tried to highlight the similarities and differences between the main protagonists, observing the “civil rights movement” from afar.

“The two heroes spend a winter overseas and manage to get to know each other in great detail, something that could not happen in the American South Today,” Roberts told KR104 Radio. “Perhaps their ability to surmount the obstacles of the racial tension is what threatens the Department of Education.”

A wave of violence in across the South has created a volatile atmosphere among Whites and Blacks.

White-Black intermarriage and intimate relations between Whites and Blacks are quite rare. The White and Black education systems are also largely separate with specific curricula catering to each sector.

The department’s director-general, Michelle Kole, said Secretary of Education Nancy Bennett, leader of the far-right Alabama White Citizens’ Council, had not been involved in the decision, although she did outline the department’s general policy.

She said other literary works by American authors that dealt with relationships between Whites and Blacks were included on the curriculum. Ferrel added that “with the passage of time and perspective, perhaps in the future (Roberts’s book) could be included.”

Amy Anderson, an English literature teacher at a Montgomery high school, said the book’s exclusion was “a disgrace” and added that she would encourage her pupils to read it.

“I hope the public outcry will prompt the department of education to change its mind, I will tell my pupils about it and I am certain that they will run to buy the book,” she told KR104 Radio.

Adapted from the original.


Ori Lewis, Israel Bans Novel About Mixed Romance From Classrooms, The Forward, December 31 2015

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