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Mississippi Backs Down on ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Ban

Biloxi, a Mississippi school district, will begin teaching Harper Lee’s classic To Kill A Mockingbird again, after it was removed from the syllabus some weeks ago following complaints that racist language used in the book was making people uncomfortable. 


Though the book will continue to be taught, students who wish to study To Kill a Mockingbird will need to request to do so, and will also need a signed permission slip due to the book’s inclusion of racist language. 


However, Lee uses racially charged language and slurs to highlight the suffering of the African American community and confront the issues of racism and discrimination that sully the history of the United States and persist today.



Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in the film To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) | Image Via MSNBC


The Biloxi district has received complaints from all over the country, including an impressive letter from eleventh-grade students in New Jersey who had this to say:


These derogatory and offensive words are powerful; they make people uncomfortable because they are painful to hear. However, it is critical that discrimination, offensive language and racism are discussed in the classroom. We need a book like To Kill A Mockingbird to illustrate the extreme prejudice that existed in our country’s past and to help start a conversation about the issues that sadly still exist today.


The Mark Twain House has also offered to assist the district in the teaching of sensitive material, noting that:


Great literature makes us uncomfortable. It changes how we think, forcing us to analyze our established points of view. Guiding students through that process is, as you know, a key element of middle-school literary studies. … These books should build empathy, and not be used to single out classmates.


To Kill a Mockingbird remains relevant not just because of its excellent writing and poignant depiction of racism in the South, but because the issues it tackles are still relevant. Racism is still an enormous issue in daily life and within the American legal system. It’s important that young people are given the space, opportunity, and tools to discuss this. 


Featured Image Via Above the Law