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Students Protest Book Bans


When Alanah Wali joined a hundred of her high school peers to protest a national surge in censorship of literature about race and sexuality, she thought about the American laws that forbade enslaved Black people from learning how to read.

“Our ability to read should not be taken for granted,” she said.


The protest, convened by local educators and librarians along with the Yale School of Art’s Class Action Collective on Thursday afternoon, brought together students from six different high schools: Metropolitan Business Academy, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, Wilbur Cross, Hill Regional Career High School, High School in the Community, and Achievement First Amistad High School.


Class Action Collective Founder Pamela Hovland kicked off the protest at Temple Plaza. She cited PEN America’s count that in the last school year, 3,362 instances of book banning occurred in 33 states. Of the books at stake, 41 percent featured LGBTQIA+ characters and 40 percent featured a ​“prominent character of color,” said Hovland.


“Many Connecticut schools have been targeted by a small minority of people who want to control what you read,” Hovland told the students.


New Haven Federation of Teachers’ Megan Fountain stressed the importance of having a library in every school; currently, she said, about half of New Haven public schools either don’t have a full-time librarian or don’t have a library at all.

Metropolitan Business Academy sophomore Elodie found it hard to pin down a favorite book, but she said that ​“books that have something to do with immigrants” have had an enormous impact on her life, including a biography of ​“founding father” Alexander Hamilton.


(Last year, one Texas school district banned The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, by Judith St. George, from elementary and middle school libraries.)


To Elodie, an avid reader who moved to New Haven with her family from Haiti when she was 3 years old, learning about Hamilton ​“shows that immigrants can truly find a place in America.”

“There are lonely people, people who are shy and introverted. They find meaning and they find themselves in books,” Elodie said.


“There’s immigrants in America. There’s LGBTQ people in America,” she added. That fact doesn’t change when books are banned.


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