Blog Post 13

Progress on Silenced, censorship of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s county, is in the final stages. Working through the motions of what my partner and I have already accomplished gives me a lot of pride in the website. We have come a long way from the begging of the semester not even knowing what WordPress is or how to use it; to not having created an entire website with different pages, interviews, and newspapers. The amount of time, energy, and willpower that we had at the begging of the semester will help get us through the end of the semester.

Progress on the website is going at a slow pace. Trying to balance my additional classes, studying for exams, and editing papers all within a two week period is extremely stressful. Last week I received suggestions of how to edit my website to be more user friendly, the peer to peer suggestions were a great start on how to edit the website for people who have not been in the class. The website acts as a source for primary sources, the newspapers from the different publishers like the Enterprise, Washington Post, and the school paper all help to give a primary source insight into the case at the time it was going on. My partner and I were fortunate enough to get a lot of newspapers and interviews for the project. I would say that we were one of the most fortunate groups in the class, we have so many newspaper articles that covered the case, we had a back and fourth dialogue between those who were for the book and then those who were against the book, the interviews with: David Flood, Robin Bates, and Amy Ford all help to put our case and general censorship into perspective, giving both a modern interpretation of the events that occurred and a reflection on the event when it was happening.

The Removal of Song of Solomon in St. Mary’s County

The thing about the website that I am most proud of is the interview with David Flood. It was sheer luck to find the teacher at the center of the controversy, without meeting with Professor Robin Bates (or even finding the article written by Robin Bates) there would have been no way possible for us to find David. Meeting him was such an experience, he was so knowledgeable about the case, having lived through it, and just the way he spoke about the case made me feel like I was going through it all with him. Currently putting the last edits of the transcript up, making sure that the software for his interview and the others turned out alright. So with that, I have one blog post left. For anyone out there reading along and following what I am saying I want to thank you for joining me through this semester. Make sure you checkout the website posted above!


Blog Post 12

The website is beginning to come together nicely. This week we are reviewing all of the websites completed by the class and giving feedback on what works and what could use some improvement. The course began very reading intensive on varying ideas on censorship, and as I reviewed a peer’s website i noticed a trend among general book censorship. In many of the cases, especially in the case of To Save A Mocking Bird, those who came out against the book did so for the use of the N-word and graphic scenes that would be too inappropriate for children. In Accomack County, this was the case. A parent made an initial complaint about the reading of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The parent, much like others who attempt to censor books, used the depictions of race and language by the characters as the reason for the ban. In this case it is tricky to declare that the book is not offensive to the reader, the complainant was the mother of a mixed African American child. She felt that the school reading materials should be reviewed and offer a more inclusive setting for the students, as her son hears it often enough outside of school, he should not hear it in the classroom. “She claimed that by letting students read these materials they were normalizing the use of the n-word in schools and her child shouldn’t have to hear it in their place of education, that her son already hears it enough on the street.”

After the initial complaint filed by his mother at the school board meeting, there was a petition started to bring the book from the county schools. Students at the high school wanted to bring the book back to the shelf. Then after the petition circulated, more and more parents, students, and residents to the county began to take notice. On December 2nd, 2016, there was a protest organized by Charles Knitter  in protest of the banning of To Kill A Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He advertised the event on Facebook while word spread throughout the community.  There were about 50 protesters there all to speak their mind and try to bring the book back to the shelves, all the while stating that the books are condemning racism and not actually condoning or encouraging racism. There efforts would prove to be successful. On December 6th, 2016, the Accomack County School Board voted to permanently reinstate both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back to school library shelves.

As I explored their website further, I noticed that they put in a map of other places in the United States and Canada. This case of To Kill A Mockingbird seems to be one of many, all in which targeting the use of the N-word to denounce the book as racist. I found it interesting that it has been challenged so many times, all along the same reasoning, in several parts of the country. It can really make you think about book censorship and the rights to free speech.

Blog Post 11

This past week has been really busy in terms of putting finishing touches onto the website. Drexel and I went to the third floor of the St. Mary’s library, the media center, and set up our little work space to edit the video and go over additional materials for the website. Our case of Song of Solomon is progressing well, I feel that everyday as we approach our deadline we discover more information about the book, author, and the controversy. The first thing I showed my partner was the photo of David Flood with Toni Morrison. He. Was. Shocked. In our research we discovered that Toni Morrison visited St. Mary’s College, but we were unsure of the specific time and needed to do more research. As it turns out, the controversy in St. Mary’s County affected everybody and the College decided to award Toni Morrison the Margaret Brent award.

With this new information under our belt, I took out the rest of the paperwork that David turned over to me after our interview. His bag was old, it was falling apart at the seams, and smelled of old newspapers. I took out all of the folders of old newspapers from the Enterprise, Washington Post, New York Times, and the school newspaper. Sprawled it all out over the table and started to show my partner how much David kept over these 25 years since the controversy. As I was sifting through the papers and explaining the papers, Drexel asked me about the white binder that was in the bag. He was onto my little surprise. I reached into the bag and pulled out David’s white binder, this binder contained a major piece to our puzzle. Earlier in the semester it was made clear by my Professors that we need to find the original complaint against the book. This task has proved more than difficult because St. Mary’s County Public Schools did not have the paperwork digitized, because it was over 25 years ago. Drexel and I went to the offices of St.Mary’s County Public Schools and sought to go through files and additional paperwork at their offices, we were denied entry because we did not have an appointment and the County Schools were off that week. Our attempts were blocked by forces out of our control, but we persisted and continued to reach out and seek for the letter and complaint against Song of Solomon.

I pulled the binder from David’s bag and set it on the table. Opening to the first few pages I handed it to Drexel and said its what we have been missing all along. The binder held a copy of the original letter that would start months of controversy and debate. This letter from one parent, started the entire debate. No formal complaint was filed.

Blog Post 10

As I come to the end of the semester, I look back on the case and what I originally thought. The initial research into this case was marred with uncertainty and hesitation. Will I be able to find everything I need? How will the website come together, what is WordPress? What was the public opinion about this book and it’s author? These questions and more clouded my original thoughts of the case, and made me very hesitant to even continue through the course. Fear of failure is a motivator, but it is also a terrible feeling to have before starting a new online course.

Progress on my case and website has been tremendous. I can see my shy and timidness shedding away as I call up the Superintendent’s office, schedule interviews with professors, librarians, and the teacher who sparked the controversy. These interviews and phone calls have become so much easier to do, I know I have the support of my professors, classmates, and partner to complete these tasks.

Last week was an incredible week for progress on the case, I had set up an interview with the teacher who assigned Song of Solomon as the summer reading list, and the interview was incredible. He called me to see where I would be at in the library, I reserved a quiet, semi-secluded, study room at the East end of the Library and set up the recording equipment, ran a few tests, checked the battery levels and set lined up the perfect angle for the interview. I went to the lobby and waited for David Flood, after a brief period I saw a very tall man with long gray hair and sunglasses. I went over to speak with him and take him to the interview room, it wasn’t him. Embarrassment has never killed anyone, yet, I sure felt close to death. A few more moments pass by and then I see another tall man following a student who had resembled me, it appears that I am not the only one who mistook an identity today. We proceeded to go upstairs to the East end of the library, and already it felt like David was about to jump out of his skin with his excitement.

The interview. WOW. It was amazing. We get into the room and he begins to open a giant old briefcase with a ton of newspapers, clippings, photos, and files. I briefly look back down at my notes and questions that I had for him, and thought for a second that I should just let him go. As soon as I started recording David started talking about what happened. I heard every detail from the man who lived it all, from over 20 years ago his memory and expression of detail were exact. More time passed and I sat there listening, just in awe, from what was being said. The passion that came from the interview will be shown on the website, the next step is to edit and publish.