On March 1, 2017, Arkansas Representative Kim Hendren (R) introduced Bill HB1834 to prohibit any publicly supported schools in Arkansas “from including in its curriculum or course materials any books or other material authored by or concerning Howard Zinn.”
This is not the first attempt to ban books by Howard Zinn in public schools. In 2010, Governor Mitch Daniels tried a similar move in Indiana. In 2011, A People’s History of the United States was removed from schools in Tucson, Arizona, as part of the ban on Mexican American Studies.
The Zinn Education Project (ZEP), a collaboration between Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change, responded by offering a free book by Howard Zinn and A People’s History for the Classroom to any Arkansas middle and high school teacher who requested one. There was an enthusiastic response with more than 600 requests in just four days. The teachers and school librarians wrote inspiring notes such as this one from a Little Rock middle school social studies teacher:
We must stand against censorship in Arkansas’ classrooms. Our students are bright and appreciate being challenged. They want to be exposed to all points of view, not shielded from those others find abhorrent.
The proposed book ban caught national attention with coverage on WBUR, Melville House, Democracy Now!, Bill Moyers & Company, Huffington Post, Common Dreams, Boston Magazine, and many more. More than 400 people have donated to help send books to Arkansas, and some included comments about why they contributed. Publishers Haymarket Books, Seven Stories Press, The New Press, Beacon Press, and HarperCollins donated books to ensure all requests were met.
The bill was sent to the Education Committee and is pending review.