Award-winning children’s author Derrick Barnes was scheduled to visit three Alabama schools during Black History Month. But just before Barnes’ scheduled performances in February, the invitation to the Hoover and Alabaster City Schools was abruptly canceled.
First, the school district cited a “recent change,” alleging that Barnes failed to provide the information needed for a contract offer. However, the New York Times bestselling author explained that suggesting there had been contract problems was a “blatant lie” and that the cancellations were political and motivated by ignorance and fear.
He said the cancellations are part of a nationwide trend to restrict access to books with black protagonists and books that tell the truth about American history.
In K-12 schools in Alabama, Critical Race Theory (CRT) was banned by the state board of education in 2021. Alabama is one of many predominantly Republican-majority state governments opposed to CRT, an academic framework for studying systemic racism that is largely taught in law schools and not covered in elementary or secondary education.
“I hate it so much because, like most writers, I’m an introvert,” Barnes told WIAT-TV, the Alabama local affiliate of CBS News. “I try to stay very low key and write the books that I write and I hope kids fall in love.”
Headmaster Dee Fowler later admitted that Barnes had provided some of the information requested, but not all. According to Alabama.com, a parent’s complaint about Barnes’ “controversial ideas” was the reason for the cancellation.
“This has to stop,” Barnes posted on Instagram. “Children will be left out and the livelihoods of children’s authors will be severely impacted.”
According to the ACLU, a long list of well-known black literature has been banned by school boards across the country, 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 according to his website has received numerous awards including a Newbery Honor, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and the Kirkus Prize for Young Readers. Crown, a children’s book published in 2017, he wanted to read to students from Alabama.
Barnes told WIAT-TV that there is no rationally offensive content in his children’s books and reading them can benefit children of all races.
“It’s important that white kids get a chance to see kids who don’t look like them, doing the same things they do: have families, have people around them who love and care for them, and just do everyday things,” he said.