By Rayah Levy

“What Is the History of Books? … Its purpose is to understand how ideas were transmitted through print and how exposure to the printed word affected the thought and behavior of mankind during the last five hundred years.”

(Darnton, Robert. “What Is the History of Books?” Daedalus 111, no. 3 (1982): 65–83.)

From my perspective, to prevent understanding ideas, enslavers did not want to reveal the written text. Therefore, enslaved thoughts had to be molded, shaped, and designed – thus, affecting the mind and gaining total control of their behavior. If exposed to books, the enslaved could threaten, disrupt and cause chaos in a society whose focus was greed and money. Hence, their minds had to be ambushed – no longer did most of the enslaved think for themselves, ask questions, or attempt to step out of the box of confinement. The enslaved became trained animals fenced in by an invisible electric fence – hence, the ambushed mind!

They say what we know
Is just what they teach us
And we’re so ignorant
Because every time they can reach us…

Yeah, this ambush in the night
Planned by society
Ambush in the night
They trying to conquer me…
–Bob Marley

The knowledge that I have accumulated and deciphered over the years through the reading of books, and lived experiences has made me realize three fundamental factors in the craze for banning books:

  1. Fear of the truth.
  2. Fear of losing control.
  3. And the fear of change.

These are the root causes why this recurring issue is now front and center in the minds of many. The White power structure wants to control and conquer the minds of the next generation!

Historically, the disruption, disconnection, and lack of exposure to literature have caused loss of identity and culture amnesia generationally. Thus, some are in limbo, wondering where they belong. European colonizers strategically designed our enslaved African descendants to remain illiterate. This was the ultimate quintessential book banning in American history.

“…the having of Slaves taught to write or suffering them to be employed in writing may be attended with great Inconveniences. Be it therefore enacted by the authority aforesaid. That all and every Person and Persons whatsoever who shall hereafter teach or cause any Slave or Slaves to be taught to write or shall use or employ any Slave as a Scribe in any manner of writing whatsoever hereafter taught to write Every such Person and Persons shall for every such Offense forfeit the Sume of One hundred pounds, Current money. This legislation casts slave literacy as a potential threat to the slave holding colony.” (Rasmussen, Birgit Brander.” ‘Attended with Great Inconveniences’: Slave Literacy and the 1740 South Carolina Negro Act.)

Now, here we are again, with this threat looming on the horizon in the twenty-first century. It appears that the oppressive power structure wants to return to a time when ignorance was bliss; and a time of mental and physical agony that our forefathers and mothers endured – forbidding them to partake from the tree of knowledge. A time when a hundred and one lashes were the punishment should they be caught with a book. However, since such actions are no longer, they try new fear tactics. For instance, it has been noted that the following books are “used to spread radical and racist ideologies to students.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram Kendi goes to the root cause of race and racism. The author wants his readers to realize that race is a construct. It has been deeply embedded and rooted into the fabric of our being. Over time, it has spread like wildfire causing “The Miseducation of the Negro Mind” as title in Carter G. Woodson’s book.

The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones enlightens the minds of readers. It provides historical information from slavery to the twenty-first century. The Langston Hughes poem touches the pulse that drives through the book’s heart.

I am the American heartbreak –
The rock on which Freedom Stumped its toe –
The great mistake
That Jamestown made
Long ago.

Many feel threatened and are fearful of the truth – they are attempting to hide the facts and vail the minds of our children. However, this must not happen! We must fight as if we are fighting for our lives and our children’s children. No longer must they try to push us back into an age of mental subjugation and suppression. No longer must they try to ambush our minds by teaching us what they want us to learn. We must not let them create a society like Fahrenheit 451, written in Ray Bradbury’s novel – in which certain books were outlawed and burned.

Despite the attempt to ban books, try to keep an optimistic attitude for the next generation. Our children are not so easily fooled by the follies of those who bellow on the street corners and at school meetings, with their propaganda. No, keep solace in what Khalid Gibran says, “On Children!”

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Therefore, do not disappear, for when tomorrow comes, the written text, and names of all sorts of authors will be left, come what may, to read, decipher, and interpret. Thus, their minds will not be ambushed but will remain emancipated. And the idea of book banning will not dwell in their psyche – for those that attempt to embed such thoughts in the minds of children cannot enter – not even in their dreams! Still, we must not become complacent but continue to remain vigilant.

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