The Fight Against Book Bans Takes A Turn

Ta’ Nehisi Coates quietly steps into the battle

Published in
4 min readJul 21, 2023


High school classroom with students from the back — Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

Ta’Nehisi Coates, the celebrated writer and journalist, recently traveled to South Carolina to enter the cultural wars being waged by conservatives all over the country regarding books about African American history and culture. (Full disclosure: Coates and I have been good friends for 25–30 years). Coates came to the state to support high school AP Language teacher Mary Wood. I was very impressed by my friend’s actions.

I sent him a note when I found out:

“Good show Bruh,” I texted.

He gave it a heart emoji. The respect was all his.


Coates sat beside Ms. Wood in a school district meeting where she is a teacher. Parents from the district also came to the forum and spoke up for Ms. Wood. They expressed their support for Ms. Wood and all teachers. They felt that it was time to answer the hysterical nonsense. Everyone does not agree with banning books. I suspect a lot of people are in favor of free speech and thought in education.

Wood and other teachers around the country are in the crosshairs of the current attempts by conservative governors and legislatures nationwide to ban books. Many of the books are written by or about African Americans. Coates’ Between the World and Me, a National Book Award winner for nonfiction, is banned in some school districts. It is time to push back on the ignorance.

Ms. Wood assigned Coates’ book and showed the students videos discussing systemic racism. She wanted them to identify some themes in the book. She wanted them to be critical thinkers. That’s when the district shut down her lesson and use of the book. Kudos to Ms. Woods for trying. America needs more, Ms. Woods. Educate the children to be critical thinkers, not robots. We are trying to raise good citizens, I like to say, not obedient animals.

White Guilt?

According to news accounts, students allegedly complained that Coates’ book made them feel guilty for being a “White” person. Nonsense. Some adults likely told them how they felt. This is precisely the kind of…




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