A liberal-leaning school district in the Greater Seattle Area removed Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” from ninth-grade required reading over concerns of racial insensitivities, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Several English teachers behind the initiative in Washington state’s Mukilteo School District argued the Harper Lee book, published in 1960, “centers on whiteness” and “presents a barrier to understanding and celebrating an authentic Black point of view in Civil Rights era literature,” according to their formal book challenge described by The Post.
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“Mockingbird,” which recounts race and criminal justice in the Depression-era South, is widely read in American high schools. During a Mukilteo committee meeting in late 2021, members voted to strike the novel from required reading, but they kept it as optional on the district’s approved curriculum list.
The group of progressive educators who launched a years-long request to censor the publication argued the district’s decision didn’t go far enough. “Each said they think students will be harmed because the book remains as a teaching option,” The Post noted of the teachers.
One teacher behind the push to have “Mockingbird” removed, Verena Kuzmany, said she doesn’t think “White authors and White characters should tell the narratives of African American people.”
“The usefulness of the book has run its course,” she added.
Another teacher in the district, Rachel Johnson, said she heard students talking about the book and “heard kids feeling isolated.” In an email to her principal in late 2020, Johnson recognized that “the plan to remove TKM may backfire.”
“I also know that the racial trauma our students of African Ancestry are dealing with is raw and real. … I will stand by you. I will take the angry phone calls,” she told the principal.
Commentators from across the political aisle were quick to weigh in on the topic.
“The book they wanted to ban was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. These are the same people who call us fascists for wanting books with actual porn removed from schools,” conservative activist Robby Starbuck recently posted on X.
“The View” co-host Joy Behar said Lee’s novel “is a great book” and noted that efforts to censor books “don’t only come from the right.”