We Know Why Prisons Really Ban Black Books

Abeni Jones
October 3, 2019

For centuries, it was illegal to teach our enslaved ancestors to read or write - and violations were punished violently.

The reason is clear: education is dangerous. People who can read and write are more likely to escape slavery, communicate with others, and rise up in power to resist.

The same is true today. This racist strategy to prevent us from educating ourselves is the reason why Black students were segregated into under-resourced schools, and why today, segregation - and school disparities - persists.

Our jails and prisons are no different. They don’t want us educated about our history or empowered to resist oppression.

While reading in prison is allowed, the list of books that inmates are banned from reading tells you all you need to know.

Books by Michelle Alexander, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, and many other books about Black history, Black empowerment, or that critique the criminal justice system are often banned. They even ban classics like Uncle Tom’s Cabin!

They say these books promote “racial supremacy,” and they point to the fact that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is banned under the same regulations. 

But we know our history, and know what they’re really up to. Some lawsuits, as well as activist pressure, are getting these regulations changed - slowly. But we have to keep up the pressure.

Are your city’s prisons and jails preventing Black inmates from educating themselves?

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