We have a break in the case—we have a case! As I mentioned in my last blog post, Avery and I have had a bit of a struggle figuring out a subject for our project. We had originally planned on looking at the Georgia Literature Commission, but then decided that that was too broad a topic to cover comprehensively in one semester. We then thought Flannery O’Connor, as a prominent Georgian author, might drum up some interesting options. It is this idea which lead me to Georgia College’s Special Collections last Thursday to meet with a research librarian and see if there were any local censorship cases surrounding O’Connor’s work. While there I spoke to Holly Croft, a Digital Archivist and Assistant Professor of Library Science at Georgia College. We discussed the possibility of a case against O’Connor. While she was able to find proof that the author’s short story collection “A Good Man is Hard to Find” had been banned in Louisiana, there was unfortunately no recorded case against O’Connor in the state of Georgia.
Luckily, not all was lost. Professor Croft was extremely helpful, and compiled a list of possible leads for me to look into, as well as some digital archives to explore. I took these leads home and began another round of research. While there were a few possible cases that could have worked for the purposes of this project, the one which drew my eye was a case that Leah Tams had suggested to us during our last class. In 2007, a mother in Gwinnett County, Georgia challenged JK Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series because they “promote the Wicca religion and use of them by the Local Board violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” according to the public record of the case by the State Board of Education. The complainant, Mrs. Laura Mallory, originally launched her complaint at her children’s school, Magill Elementary in Loganville, GA. After the school decided not to remove the books from their media center, Mrs. Mallory appealed to the system level, the Local Board of Education, the State Board of Education, all of which upheld the original decision to keep the books in Gwinnett County Public Schools. On May 29, 2007 Superior Court judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld the State Board’s decision, ending the case.
Unlike the other leads we had looked into for this project, this case provided a wealth of resources even from a quick google search. After looking over our options, Avery and I have decided that this will be the case we focus our project on. Another unforeseen benefit of choosing this case is that I was a student of Gwinnett County Public Schools from kindergarten through high school, meaning that I was in the school system during the time of the case. While I do not personally remember the case going on, as I would have been ten at the time and the original complaint was filed at an elementary school about thirty minutes away from my own, I do have connections to a few of my former teachers, two of whom are high school English teachers and all of whom still work in Gwinnett County. Hopefully they will be able to provide some behind-the-scenes insight into the case, or their views of censorship in general as educators.