This project was a semester long venture that began in January 2018. We [the researchers] started out with the following mission:
The goal of this project is to create a website that chronicles and discusses the censorship of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison since it was published. We will be focusing on the Fall 2017 case in Buncombe County, North Carolina, where Tim Coley, the parent of a student from North Buncombe High School, challenged The Bluest Eye. Because of his Christian beliefs, Coley thought that the book was inappropriate for classroom instruction. We will present demographic and historical information about Buncombe County that will help explain the outside factors that could have also potentially led up to the start of this challenge.
Our goal is to create content that is fair and considers all sides and points of view to the best of our ability by conducting and transcribing as many interviews from as many people who were involved in the case as possible. In addition, we will also be adding interviews we have with librarians and a Toni Morrison scholar from UNC Asheville to provide an outside perspective.
We aim to create a website that is easily navigable and has approachable and understandable language targeted towards students and learners of high school age and older. We will provide proper citations as well as places where readers can find more information on the topics discussed on our site.
We will also be sure to emphasize that this case did not result in a book ban. However, this is still a case where a parent attempted censorship.
We aim for this site to be educational in nature. We hope to present both sides as fairly as possible to provide readers with a complete picture of the case. We hope to connect the challenge of The Bluest Eye to other challenges of books with sexually explicit content in the region and in the country. We want this website to be a valuable resource for educators and students who want to know more about the book challenge and learn more about policies surrounding book challenges in Buncombe County Schools.
Throughout this semester, we were able to interview a few key members involved in the case, including Stacia Harris, Dr. Samantha Sircy, and Eric Grant. We also interviewed two librarians and an archivist to understand the views of those in the library system and hear about what the American Library Association had to say on the subject of censorship. We also interviewed a Toni Morrison Scholar and the parent involved in a different book challenge in Buncombe County. Click here for a master list of people interviewed.
We were not, however, able to gain access to the schools system’s records regarding this case and were informed by a representative of the school system that, “The details and documents regarding [The Bluest Eye] book challenge are not a public record.” The school board also preferred to not give us the name of the teacher that had originally assigned the book. We also attempted to reach out to the complaining parent, Tim Coley, but were unable to make contact.
Despite these set backs, we used the information we had gathered from news articles on the case, information on other challenges of The Bluest Eye, and the interviews we conducted. We have compiled these materials, and this website is the product of what we found as well as our best theory of the sequence of events and our interpretation of what happened.
Because we were unable to view the written complaint for this challenge, we do not know exactly which book passages the parent took issue with. We decided to make our best judgement based on what we read of other challenges and include excerpts from the book that we think challengers may have taken issue with so that we could provide a lens through which viewers can see the passages in isolation as some of the challengers may have. With this said, we encourage viewers of this website to consider The Bluest Eye in its entirety and not just to look at these passages by themselves without context. See a the book summary here. See a literary critique here.
As we originally set out, this website is designed to be educational in nature. It is our hope that others will be able to use this site to understand not only what happened in this case, but also to see how other events can contribute to a book challenge and the way it is received in the community.