Free Speech Press Release

09.12.13

ACLU Challenges Ohio Board of Education President’s Comments Labeling Toni Morrison Novel “Pornographic”

ACLU Invites Board Members to Program Celebrating Banned Works of African American Authors

CLEVELAND – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio issued a letter to Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar yesterday, challenging her remarks advocating the removal of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye from state teaching guidelines on the grounds that the novel is “pornographic.”

The ACLU also invited Terhar and the other members of the state school board to attend a September 26 event at Columbus Dance Theatre celebrating the work of banned African American authors. The event is part of the ACLU of Ohio’s yearly celebration of Banned Books Week, a national effort launched in 1982 aimed at drawing attention to literature that has been the target of censorship. It will include works by Morrison, an Ohio native who has won the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Unfortunately, there is a long and troubling tradition of attacking African American literature on the grounds that it is ‘too controversial’ for young people,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “These attempts to ignore or gloss over complex issues do a disservice to our students, who cannot lead our future unless they fully understand the past and present.”

“We hope that Ms. Terhar and other members of the board will attend our September 26 event, where they may learn more about the many African American authors whose important voices have been misunderstood and attacked,” added Link.

Written in 1970, The Bluest Eye features Pecola Breedlove, a black child from Ohio who wishes she were white with blue eyes. Through the course of the novel, she becomes a haunting symbol of internalized racism as she is abused by her community and eventually raped and impregnated by her own father.