The Randolph County school board in North Carolina has rescinded its ban on Ralph Ellison's highly revered Invisible Man following a little over a week of intense criticism from free speech and literary advocates. The 5-2 decision, initially sparked by a parent's complaint that the book was not appropriate for teenagers, was reversed in a 6-1 vote on Wednesday night. The ban had been widely criticized and ridiculed since it went into effect on September 16, and was highly protested, even including a giveaway of the book at a local store.
Board members who reversed their decision were largely conciliatory, admitting their mistake. Some were swayed by a deluge of emails and letters to the board, while others took a more personal stance on why they had changed their mind.
Board member Tracy Boyles, who voted for the original ban but joined in rescinding it Wednesday, choked back tears as he said his son had been in combat overseas in the Air Force, “fighting for those freedoms that I’m here passing a vote to take away.’’
“Is that right of me? No,’’ Boyles said.
The lone member who vote to uphold the ban called the book "not appropriate for young teenagers." That position was echoed by a written statement from the parent who had originally requesting the ban, arguing that school libraries were not entitled to the same First Amendment protections that public libraries are. Kimiyutta Parson wrote that, "School libraries are not public libraries."
Ray Criscoe, the editor of Asheboro's Courier-Tribune, said that the ban had provided more op-ed fodder than any other issue in recent memory.