This post originally appeared at the Zinn Education Project on March 5.
Maybe you’ve heard: Legislation just proposed in Arkansas would ban books by or about Howard Zinn from all public schools in the state. The bill, submitted by Representative Kim Hendren (R), can be read in full here.
In solidarity with Arkansas educators and students, the Zinn Education Project will send a book by Howard Zinn and A People’s History for the Classroom to any Arkansas teacher who requests them. This offer is made possible by donations from individuals and from publishers, including Haymarket Books, Seven Stories Press, The New Press, Beacon Press, and HarperCollins.
Already, 700 middle and high school teachers and school librarians have sent requests and more continue to come in. There has been widespread national news coverage of the story, including on WBUR, Melville House, Boston Magazine, Common Dreams, and more.
Please join us. We need your help so that we can respond to every request for these materials. Now, more than ever, students in Arkansas—and across the country—need a chance to learn the true history of the United States, a people’s history.
Read the words of some of the Arkansas teachers and librarians who have written us:
The proposed bill to ban Mr. Zinn’s book has fired up the Arkansas librarian world. To combat ignorance, I must have knowledge. I respectfully request a copy so I can educate my tiny corner of the world. —Western Grove, Arkansas, middle school librarian
We must stand against censorship in Arkansas’ classrooms. Our students are bright and appreciate being challenged. They want to be exposed to all points of view, not shielded from those others find abhorrent. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school social studies teacher
Librarians are warriors against censorship. We will gladly share this book with our students and staff. Thank you, and keep fighting the good fight for freedom of information, the freedom to read, and freedom to read the truth! —Green Forest, Arkansas, high school librarian
Books and ideas are increasingly under attack in Arkansas. We need to defend our rights and freedoms and be willing to look at history from multiple viewpoints. As Orwell wrote, freedom is the freedom to say 2+2=4. Sometimes, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act. The truth will be taught in my classroom. —El Dorado, Arkansas, high school U.S. history teacher
Thank you so much to donors who believe in intellectual freedom. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school book club sponsor
I was first introduced to Zinn in my 8th grade history class in a public school in Austin, TX. I found his writings both eye-opening and socially just. As a new teacher in Arkansas, I believe it is my duty to, like Mr. Hendrix, share stories of the marginalized and show that there is never just one side to the story. Thank you to the Zinn Education Project and everyone who has contributed to the book drive for providing such an important and awesome opportunity for us Arkansas teachers. You have definitely lightened a dark week. Thank you for helping me to educate my students. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
Censorship of books is the worst thing that can happen to our kids. If there is a book that Arkansas wants to ban, it is probably a book that will open the eyes of the kids to truth that they need to know. —Jonesboro, Arkansas, middle school math teacher
I first read this book in college while researching the Southern Tenant Workers Union. It presented a well-researched political and economic point of view rarely articulated so clearly and thoroughly. The idea that this Arkansas state legislature is specifically banning Zinn’s work would be ridiculous if it weren’t such a frighteningly blatant example of censorship and yet another well-orchestrated attack by the GOP on labor unions. I had hoped that the fight for the right of workers to unionize was over. —Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school social studies teacher
Students are exhausted by lies they see in media and have become cynical as a coping mechanism. We are in a post-trust era and youth are most strongly affected. I must help them respect, evaluate, and integrate outside sources and information. Zinn represents voices they need to hear. —Maumelle, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
When I was teaching in Conway, Arkansas, the Board of Education tried to ban this same book, which was being used by a very outspoken high school history teacher. Remembering this time and seeing Mr. Zinn’s name come up again has made me curious. I have also finally begun to question many of the “history lessons” we received in public schools growing up. It’s time to make sure I know what’s going on. —Rogers, Arkansas, middle school music teacher
My students need to hear stories from people who look like them. I also believe that anything people try to ban is worth reading. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school special education teacher
When I read about how the Librotraficante responded to the ban on ethnic studies in Arizona, I couldn’t resist in requesting this book to integrate it into my Spanish class. —Little Rock, Arkansas, middle school Spanish teacher
My 11th grade teacher used this book to teach us different perspectives of history and it changed the way I looked at things. I always felt that one day I would use it in my own classroom to give my kids the same experience. It is absurd to me that this book could be banned. —El Dorado, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
I am attempting to get multiple copies of this book, and have a display with a sign that states, “Warning! There are Arkansas legislators who DO NOT want you to read this book!” —Lead Hill, Arkansas, high school media specialist
Thank you for doing this. One must stand up in the face of oppression. — Fayetteville, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
Whether I agree with it or not no book should ever be banned. I have seen this book at the stores for quite some time now, but never really thought about reading it. But that changed when I saw that they were trying to ban it. A book that is being banned by Republicans is a book everyone should read, and so should my students. —Little Rock, Arkansas, high school ESL teacher
I actually just finished a unit on censorship and would love to be able to speak to my students to make the relevance even more clear. —Jonesboro, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
I have read this book front to back and was astounded by all I didn’t know (or rather wasn’t taught.) I have a personal copy, but I’d love to have a classroom copy. I know I could use the lessons. —Jonesboro, Arkansas, high school language arts teacher
Books should not be banned, end of story. I love sharing the “forgotten ” or glossed over parts of history with my kids. They need to know the complete story if they are expected to not repeat the mistakes of the past. —Bryant, Arkansas, middle school science teacher
Read many more comments here.
Please help ensure that all Arkansas teachers receive a book by Howard Zinn and A People’s History for the Classroom.
If you want informed citizens who question and think critically, help us send people’s history teaching resources to classrooms in Arkansas.
This is not the first attempt to ban books by Howard Zinn in public schools. In 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels tried a similar move in Indiana. In 2011, A People’s History of the United States was removed from schools in Tucson, Arizona, as part of the ban on Mexican American Studies.
Stand with the Zinn Education Project to defend the right of teachers in Arkansas and everywhere to use materials by and about Howard Zinn. Join us with your donation today.
Top photograph: High school students in Batesville, Arkansas, wrote to their state senator and tweeted their public protest.