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'The Color Purple' Remains on Brunswick County Reading Lists

The Color Purple
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

The School Board in Brunswick County has voted to uphold an earlier decision and keep the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Color Purple” on advanced placement reading lists.

The Brunswick County School board voted 3 to 2 in favor of upholding Superintendent Edward Pruden’s decision to keep Alice Walker's “The Color Purple” on school reading lists.  But Pruden says the debate is still not completely resolved.

“It’s settled but I think the core issues of what literature is used and who decides are ongoing questions that public school systems will have to address from time to time," said Pruden.

County Commissioner Pat Sykes raised objections to “The Color Purple,” which she says details issues of racism, sexual assault and violence against women.  Sykes does not have any children in Brunswick County Schools.

District policy allows students or parents to request alternate reading material if they object to a book.  School board members will meet on January 21, 2014 for a Policy Committee meeting to review that policy.

"I don't know that the matter is completely resolved, it is for the time being," said Pruden.  But I think any and all options can be discussed at the policy meeting on the twenty first."

The ACLU of North Carolina applauds the decision, calling it "a victory for academic freedom and the rights of students."

"Literary classics such as 'The color Purple' are part of high school curricula across the country precisely because they tackle difficult and challenging topics that compel students to think critically about the world around them," said Chris Brook, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina.

In September 2013, Ralph Ellison's literary classic, "Invisible Man," was put back on school shelves in Randolph County after the school board reversed an earlier vote.

"The Color Purple" was published in 1982. In 1983, Walker's book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  "The Color Purple, the movie, was released in 1985.  It was filmed in North Carolina.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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