A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: martin (Page 2 of 2)

Finding Our Case

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.

Rethinking Censorship

Our reading this week, Belinda Louie’s “Politics in Children’s Literature: Colliding Forces to Shape Young Minds,” has been useful not only as an identifier of the “stakeholders” of children’s literature but also in reshaping my understanding of censorship as a social issue. Before this course, I tended to think of censorship only as a large-scale problem. Reading this chapter, however, forced me to contextualize the wide-ranging connotations of such an idea in smaller terms by breaking down the individual forces of censorship involved in children’s literature. These forces, whom Louie calls stakeholders, are those individuals who “By advocating or rejecting certain books, by highlighting or being silent on certain issues… influence which books make their ways into the hands of young readers” (4). The chapter highlights seven stakeholders: authors, children, parents, teachers, district administrators, the public, and publishers. By directing censorship of children’s literature into the hands of these seven distinct groups of people, Louie simultaneously calls her readers’ attention to the people involved in deciding what books children read and to the idea of censorship as a more personal issue. While we may not have experienced a censorship case directly, almost everyone has had experience with the education system in some way, be it as a student themselves or in one of these other stakeholder roles. Most of us, then, have had a role in censoring literature, whether or not we are aware of this censorship.

As my partner Avery and I have been discussing what specific censorship issue in Georgia we want our project to focus on, I have often caught myself running into the same problem I struggled with before reading “Politics in Children’s Literature.” Repeatedly during this initial process, I’ve realized I was thinking of censorship not as a local concern but rather a national or even global one. Our first idea for the project certainly fell along these lines— we planned on researching the Georgia Literature Commission, the first censorship board in the United States. The GLC, established in 1953, stirred up state-wide controversy from the moment it was approved by the Georgia State Assembly until its “slow death” and eventual termination in 1973 (Washington Post). While the GLC’s run creates an interesting discussion about censorship in broad terms, we ran into an issue finding specific cases regarding the GLC in our local area, especially in regards to possible interviewees who might have a vested interest in the Commission. It is this minor roadblock which made me realize not only that I was thinking about censorship too broadly, but that I didn’t want to examine it in wider terms, at least not for the purposes of this project. My hope for this website is to provide insight into the ways in which individuals and communities are affected by censorship cases. Although our research into the GLC as part of the national censorship conversation offers a useful background, I think it will work better for our purposes as a jumping off point rather than the centerpiece of our research.


Louie, Belinda. “Politics in Children’s Literature: Colliding Forces to Shape Young Minds.” Shattering the Looking Glass: Challenge, Risk, and Controversy in Children’s Literature, edited by Susan S. Lehr, Christopher-Gordon Publishers, 2008, pp. 3-13.

Chokshi, Niraj. “Georgia created the nation’s first censorship board 61 years ago today.” The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/02/19/georgia-created-the-nations-first-censorship-board-61-years-ago-today/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.90a7acf9f484. Accessed 28 January 2019.

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