Education · Get Involved!

Event of Interest: Protest in Detroit over Black History Book Dumping

Detroit skyline
Detroit skyline (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

It’s never a good thing when books are burned, but what about when books are dumped out of a school district’s collection? In a city neighboring Detroit, recently, there were protests sparked over the dumping of Black History books.

Evidently, a Detroit-area school district dumped thousands of historic works – more than 10,000 volumes that covered Black history. The emergency manager, Donald Weatherspoon commented on the dumping saying that it was a mistake,but at the same time the school district couldn’t afford to house these books.

Naturally, the event caused an uproar. The protest in the Detroit suburb of Highland Park criticized the emergency manager for disposing of many books, tapes, videos, and more that are not replaceable. (See the video below).

What’s most striking is that this not only erased history, but it effectively made a statement of what sort of history would and would not be taught in Highland Park’s school district.

The National Coalition Against Censorship is one organization to become involved with to stop censorship of individual volumes – but what does one do when a whole collection of books on the history of a race are destroyed?

In one historic case, known as the Historic Island Trees Book Banning Case, the banning of books was taken to the Supreme Court, who upheld the rights of students to read. They determined that the removal of certain books from junior high and high school libraries violated the first amendment.

On Monday, July 8th, one of the Highland Park Emergency Manager’s board members turned in his resignation letter after the protests.  He stated he was resigning because he disagrees with how the district is being run. In the USA Today article, he said:

“She understood she had to balance the books somehow, but she wasn’t interested in destroying our community,” Davis said, comparing Parker to Weatherspoon. “To say he’s not in the business of storing books and libraries, isn’t that what education is supposed to be about – books and knowledge? ”

The move came about three weeks after Highland Park resident Paul Lee, a historian who helped build the collection, and other volunteers recovered about 1,000 pieces from Dumpsters outside the high school on Woodward Avenue. Lee said the 10,000-piece collection of black history books, movies, videos and other artifacts rivaled a community college library. Weatherspoon told angry residents the collection was thrown out by mistake, but the district could not afford to house such a collection.

There was no comment immediately available from Dr. Weatherspoon.

You can write a letter to the board of education supporting the protesters cause:

Emergency Manager, Dr. Donald Weatherspoon; 15900 Woodward, Suite 212; Highland Park, MI 48203



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