As school boards across the country usher in a wave of bans on books –– many of which are authored by Black people telling Black stories –– students are forming coalitions to fight back.
“If a little girl or Black girl goes into her school library and can’t find a single book that represents her and people are telling her that she doesn’t really matter, she will treat herself as such. She will act like she doesn’t matter, and that’s how the cycle continues,” Christina Ellis told NBC News’ Tat Bellamy-Walker.
Ellis and her sister Renee, are both students at a predominantly white Pennsylvania high school and worked to help reverse a ban on books by Black authors.
The two, along with several classmates of Panther Anti-Racist Union –– a student-led social advocacy group –– protested the ban on books including Hidden Figures, a story about Rosa Parks, and the documentary I Am Not Your Negro which covers the life and work of famed author James Baldwin.
“We didn’t want history to repeat itself, with hiding history, hiding the experiences of people of color in this country,” Renee told the outlet.
“We also wanted to make sure that the younger kids underneath got a full education, especially with the murder of George Floyd and the murder of Breonna Taylor and so many other social justice issues in America.”
These two sisters reflect a growing movement among Black students who are fighting back against book bans –– promoting reading among peers, challenging policies, and raising up the stories many conservative school boards are threatened by.
“There’s nothing more attractive to a kid than a forbidden book,” author Mikki Kendall told the outlet.
Jaiden Johnson, a middle schooler in Texas said students rushed to check the banned books out of the school’s library “because they wanted to read them before they went away again.”
The 12-year-old and another classmate started Round Rock Black Students Book Club to have a virtual space for students of color to read books with characters that look like them together.
If you’re doing some reading of your own, check out these Black-owned bookstores around the country to support.