Blog Post 9

As I dive further into research into the banning of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s county, my understanding of censorship begins to shift and expand. I find my mind racing through all these different ideas of what is censorship, how censorship impacts everyone in different ways, and just how far people would be willing to go to censor different opinions.

1933 German book burning

In my studies from High school to college, I have always believed that censorship was a political tool used to silence  and oppress those who do not align with the majority party. As time has progressed, I have begun to notice that it is more than a political tool to silence others. Censorship is taking away other voices. Censorship is eliminating different opinions.

Censorship impacts everyone differently, no matter your stance on censorship, its mere existence sparks debate and dissent among those involved. The censorship of Toni Morrison in St. Mary’s country impacts everyone: students, teachers, parents, administrators, members of the community, special interest groups, minority groups, and the author.

Students are possibly impacted the most by books being banned, in this particular case, the book by Toni Morrison was to be used in conjunction with a lesson plan about self identity and self trials. It was supposed to be used with the Adventure of HuckleBerry Fin, to see through the different gaze of the characters. As well as see the differences of the main character.

Teachers are forced to change what they are trying to teach to their class, shifting the focuses or even dropping lesson plans on the topic. I have yet to interview the teacher in St. Mary’s County about what they were forced to do after the ban. Even little alterations to the lesson or just to completely replace it with another book.

Parents are put into a position of having to decide if the book is appropriate for their students. As in a former interview with Professor Bates, students are well aware of curse words, foul language, and sexual topics; but parents still have control over what their children read. In the case of Song of Solomon, the complaint is believed to have come from a parent highlighting the foul language, sexually explicit content, and the theme of suicide. All of these things can be concerning to a parent, but if there is a setting for these discussions to be had, would it be school?

We have seen throughout history that books have been the target of those in power. The picture I found from Germany in 1933 is the example that comes to my mind when someone says banned books. But books can be banned and censored in more than just eliminating the book, editors telling the author how to phrase sentences, readers coming out against a book, and so on. Censorship of the Song of Solomon came in the form of removing the book from the curriculum, meanwhile it was still available at the library and book stores. In the interview with Professor Bates, he informed me that the book sold out in bookstores after the newspaper articles. Just goes to show you, people will only want to read it more.

Blog Post 8

This post will be used to reflect my current feelings on doing primary source research and trying to get in contact with others for interviews.





In the course of this research project, creating a website with a plethora of different sources, and setting up interviews, things are bound to go wrong and you will have setbacks. The never ending Ocean of Life will bring wave upon wave till it swallows you whole. The wind will fan the flames as you feel overwhelmed with all of your school work pile up. The earth will shake and you will feel powerless as the world around you crumbles down. But, there is a silver lining. If you are able to embrace the chaos going on around you, you will be able to emerge wiser, stronger, and prepared for the next storm or fire or earthquake. At this point of the semester, the flames are a roaring, and now is the time to focus on the research, the website, and the interviews.

The amount of research that my partner and me have compiled is staggering, but that is all through newspapers and opinion pieces of the book censorship. Song of Solomon has faced the fire in St. Mary’s county, and it appears to have emerged unscathed from the censorship. One thing I was interested in was if anytime since the first conflict of the novel in the County if it has been tired to be used again. Or if it is on any school suggested reading lists. But much like everything in life, your questions and exploration sometimes come up with nothing but more questions than answers. Looking into the ban and any additional bans has come up with no yield, it would have added to our website to see if the book were to be banned again. Possibly have a comparison of the complaints against Toni Morrison’s book.

The most recent progress I have made on editing the website is our “about the author” tab. I started off much like any other biography about an author and started to look at her education, where she grew up, when she graduated high school and college, and seeing if they went onto any major accomplishments. Toni Morrison is one of the most successful African American writers in the United States, her books and novels, all in some way similar to the Song of Solomon, such as the Bluest Eye, have helped her to earn several awards and lifetime achievements. The research of her life helped me to put more of the novel into perspective, from what is known about the Song of Solomon and why it was banned, I never would have imagined her other books facing similar charges. But I also believe that the book was banned for additional reasons than what I initially learned, race also played a large roll in its censorship. Toni Morrison’s book was censored in some other school districts, but it will take additional research in order to find out those causes, and connect them back to our County in a specific case.

Blog Post 7

In my previous blog post, I talked about my preparation for an interview I would be conducting with a local St. Mary’s county librarian. Since having the interview and taking the time to reflect on the responses of the interviewee, I believe that my questions were too spread out and had little focus as to the kind of censorship’s that the library has faced.

The interview itself I felt went excellent, we met at the desired location on time and had excellent, clear footage for the interview. The equipment functioned perfectly, no technical difficulties or problems operating the DSLR camera or the audio recorder. The next step will be to transcribe the interview so I will be able to refer to what was discussed without going through the entire video.

With the equipment in place the rest of the interview went as I had expected it to, the questions about censorship were responded to in a broad way that will allow the references to our novel to be used on our website. The interviewee seemed to be ready for the questions asked, she was not caught off guard about the topic and was well spoken in her opposition to censorship. They believed that the role of a librarian, and to a greater extent an educator, is to foster a place of learning where multiple and diverse opinions can be heard.

I think it is important for multiple opinions to be heard on issues concerning politics, race, and class; but often times people shut out differing opinions because they disagree or they offend others. It has come out that social media outlets, like Facebook, personalize and tailor your news feeds to match your personality and interests. But one unintended consequence of this has become a selection of political coverage that only shows you things you believe or have a tendency to lean towards. This kind of exclusion of opinions can lead to radicalization, improper facts, and closed mindedness. For more information on the topic refer to the  article hyperlink below:

This interview has helped me to craft the questions for my next interview. In the next coming weeks, I will be meeting with a College professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Professor Robin Bates was around at the time Song of Solomon and even wrote newspaper articles about the censorship. When I have my interview with Professor Bates, I plan to uncover what residents in St. Mary’s county thought about the book becoming banned, and if he knows anything more about the book itself. When we scheduled the meeting with Professor Bates, he informed my partner and I that he actually taught the High school that put Toni Morrison’s book on the reading list, which would later become the center of controversy.

Overall I was happy with the interview with the local librarian, and I look forward to the next interviews to uncover more of the secrets around the book becoming banned.

Blog Post 6

While in the course of researching the case of Toni Morrison’s book, The Song of Solomon, I knew one voice that could not be excluded when discussing book censorship, librarians. Many librarians are against banning books, banning a book is silencing a voice in a world discussion. Nobody would think to cover someone’s mouth when they are talking at a school board meeting or pleading their case in a courtroom, but this is what book censorship does, it stops the conversation that is being held, and sometimes it stops the conversation from happening.

I knew that an interview with a St. Mary’s  librarian from Lexington Park would be a huge benefit to the study of banned books. The preparation for the interview was straight forward. I knew where to go and request to have the interview, but then other things started to pop up. Who would be willing to speak about this controversial topic? My partner and I reached out to the library via email and organized a date to meet with a research librarian. Now that the interview day and time was lined up,  look for the equipment to record the interview, I had to think of questions, and present the case we are studying so the research librarian would be able to fully understand what my partner and I intended to do with this information.

The first step of interview prep was to see what equipment was available to me. In a previous post, I surveyed the media center at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and reviewed the available materials. With this as my first step, I knew exactly who to reach out to and arranged a time for us to meet up and discuss the needs for the interview. The equipment that was available at the time was exactly what I needed, they had an excellent DSLR camera that would display a fine image and high quality video. There is an attachment for the camera to have an audio recorder which would be removed. There is also software that would align the video taken with the audio recorded from this secondary device. We also needed a tripod to set the camera on so we wouldnt have to hold it the entire time.

Next came the questions. That process was completed by me and my partner, we got together and focused on questions about our book, general censorship, and how the librarian feels about the censorship. Questions like: How do you feel about censorship? Who’s voice is excluded from the conversation with book censorship? Are you aware of Toni Morrison’s book was censored in the county in the 90’s? These questions were enough for us to get started, and continue with the interview from there.

Lastly, we had the interview prep of our research. I readied the discussion by asking her if she knows any particular instances of book censorship from the county, and respond that there actually was a book banned in the 90’s. Briefly explaining cultural significance, and the reason the book was banned.