Banned Books and the First Amendment Essay

Category: Literature
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Literature is an important aspect of the human life. The freedom of reading is an issue due to language usage and subject matter. Banning books could either be censoring individuals from the pain of history, or allowing them to expand their intellectual capacity. Evidently, banning books could be both favorable, and a cause for concern. The article “Read the Great Books That Use the Worst Slur,” authored by Tonyn Norman argues the need to protect the eyes and ears of students who are reading about racism through both emotional and logical appeal. On the other side of the debate, Myesha Braden, Michael Huggins, and Alexander Courtney, in their article “Banning Literature in Prisons Perpetuates System That Ignores Inmate Humanity,” addresses the importance of allowing banned books not just in schools, but in prisons using logical appeal. This argument over banned books ultimately comes down to whether the individual can deal with the involution of American racism.

Historically, the main motives for banning books include: violence, issues with race, and inappropriate topics. Admittedly, disputes over obscenity – how it is elucidated and how that description relates to the First Amendment – have been at the hub of banned book disputations throughout the 20th and 21st century. People such as teachers and parents believed children shouldn’t be taught and exposed to racism, violence, or unfitting topics in schools. Therefore; books started getting banned due to their content and historical reasons (Norman).

Norman supports her pro-banned books claim using an emotional and logical appeal to express that banning books can be advantageous in shielding students from the wicked reality of the world. For example, she states that banned books can help guard “the dignity of students” who might be affected by hearing or reading America’s most omnipresent racial slurs, and states that it is “just hurtful” to use the language that has “oppressed the people for over 200 years” (Norman). 

Additionally, she addresses the novels, “Huck Finn” by Mark Twain, and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and how some teachers believe that students in high school do not have the highbrow or moral capacity to deal with America’s dark history with racism (Norman). This suggests that banned books could be overwhelming to students who are presented with racial slurs and racism. Norman implies that books should be limited from students depending on their level of maturity (Norman). However, the article also states that ”such “enlightened” censorship rarely acknowledges the slurs that are most often uttered by the most ignorant characters in a novel” (Norman). This seems like a step back in shielding students from what banned books have to offer until she reveals that racial discrimination in banned books could make students “uncomfortable” (Norman). The schools implications that banned books has according to Norman provides aspiration to many that these books will ultimately benefit students.

In the Supreme Court ruling of 1982, Justice Brennan stated that taking books away from libraries could contravene students’ First Amendment rights. Later on that year, Judith Krug, a library activist, found Banned Books Week. This awareness campaign is celebrated annually for our freedom to read. Alongside Krug, a great deal of people believe reading emboldens empathy and social-emotional growth. Many regularly challenged books guide people to get a finer idea of the world and their spot in it (Braden).

Braden, Huggins, and Courtney support their anti-banned books claim by using logical appeal frequently to convey that even individuals behind bars should have the freedom to read what they want rather than being censored to literature, and isolated from society. For example, they state that banning literature in prison systems have huge effects on the inmates by “reinforcing a prison environment that devalues humanity and protects a troubling status quo – a lack of knowledge and education for inmates struggling to remain out of the system” (Braden). This suggests that we read to grasp and voice ourselves, to clip to humanity, to apprehend the rights of human beings, and assimilate superior ways of fortifying our constitutional freedoms. 

Braden, Huggins, and Courtney implies that giving inmates access to books could aid some with effective reentry and secure those who obtain their freedom are able to retain it (Braden). However, the article states that “pre-Civil War literacy bans perpetuate the institution of slavery, restrictions like those perpetuate mass incarceration and ensure that prisons, jails, and the industries that serve them continue to flourish” (Braden). This seems like a step backwards in increasing inmates capability to get in on the act of “educational, vocational, and work-readiness programs that further decrease recidivism” (Braden). The prison systems implies that banned books have according to Braden, Huggins, and Courtney are not giving inmates their full rights to the first amendment by banning literature.

With the all-embracing argument over banned books may still go unresolved, the importance of whether books and/or literature should be banned revealed in both Norman’s and Braden’s, Huggins’, and Courtney’s arguments make it lucid that our society ought to address the bone of contention now. Norman’s emotional and logical argument both recognizes present-day problems and provides examples of schools and books to rest their case of banned books being a conflict to students intellectual capacity. However, Braden’s, Huggins’, and Courtney’s argument that banning books from the prison system creates dissension with their future. This divulges that our society is solely not ready to take to one’s heart about the banning of books. In spite of everything about Norman’s view that banned books could shield students the pain of America’s horrific history, it is enthralling that most people seem to stand by Braden’s, Huggins’, and Courtney’s view and prolong their stance that preventing students and the prison system from knowing about the world and frail humanity is pie in the sky.

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Banned Books and the First Amendment Essay. (2021, Aug 06). Retrieved from

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