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Banned and Dangerous Art

by nmik ~ July 5th, 2013

Welcome to Banned and Dangerous Art, a freshman seminar at the University of Mary Washington, Fall 2014. More information coming soon. In the meantime, explore banned and dangerous art!

BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2014  is September 21- 27. Do you know what books have been banned recently in the U.S.? How many of them have you read?



NEWS FLASH!!  July 24, 2014  Ringgold School Board in Pennsylvania banned Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale from the summer reading list. The book was banned for its “graphic language” and “sexual content.” One member of the board called the book “garbage” and another member commented that the book “uses language that, if used by students, would get them expelled.” When it was pointed out that some members of the board objecting to the book had not read it, one member responded, “I don’t read Penthouse and I won’t read this.” The American Library Association lists The Handmaid’s Tale as number 37 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000. 



Margaret Atwood is an award winning novelist and poet. The Kid’s Right to Read Project (KRRP) of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) sent a letter to the Ringgold High School President and members of the Board of Education detailing the constitutional and educational reasons for retaining the book. You can read the letter here.



September 16, 2013

North Carolina school board bans Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.  According to the Asheboro, NC Courier-Tribune,  “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is now banned from the shelves of Randolph County Schools libraries. ” By a 5-2 margin, the Randolph County Board of Education voted Monday night, at its regular meeting held at Eastern Randolph High School, to remove all copies of the book from school libraries. The action stems from a Randleman High School parent’s complaint about the book. Committees at both the school and district levels recommended it not be removed…”


The board action was is response to a complaint about the book from the parent of an 11th grader. In her complaint, the parent said,  “The narrator writes in the first person, emphasizing his individual experiences and his feelings about the events portrayed in his life. This novel is not so innocent; instead, this book is filthier, too much for teenagers. You must respect all religions and point of views when it comes to the parents and what they feel is age appropriate for their young children to read, without their knowledge. This book is freely in your library for them to read.” From Asheboro, Courier-Tribune 9-16-13.

Read more about Ralph Ellison from the Library of Congress

In this course, we will be exploring and analyzing many examples of Banned and Dangerous Art, including banned music, visual art and film, books, and performances. Take a look at this mural painted by the artist Blu and then its subsequent removal; read more about it here in the Los Angeles Times and here in the New York Times


Listen to  the music of Mahsa Vahdat and Mighty Sam McClain below. Vahdat (and her sister) are currently banned in Iran –but  a collaboration like this one between Vahdat and McClain would have been impossible here in the US even 60 years ago.

Or enjoy this video from the artist BLU above and ask yourself, is graffiti art? When are we justified in removing it? When not?

BIG BAG BIG BOOM – the  wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.