Major bookseller Barnes & Noble canceled a Black History Month initiative at its flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City after public backlash.
What We Know:
- On Wednesday, the store planned to host an event to launch its new Diverse Editions project which would showcase classic books like, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, Moby-Dick, Romeo and Juliet, and Peter Pan with new covers illustrating the main characters as people of color.
- The store planned to feature the newly jacketed books in its window display all month.
- The Diverse Editions release was put to a halt after being slammed on Twitter for Barnes & Noble’s “literary blackface”.
- LL McKinney tweeted, “Another version of literary blackface..eye..”
- In a statement announcing the suspension Wednesday, the company ackowledged that merely slapping a new cover on the same old times was not the same as releasing books about or by writers of color.
- Barnes & Noble said in a tweet, “We acknowledge the voices who have expressed concern, the covers are not a substitute for black voices or writers of color, whose work and voices deserve to be heard.”
- “You have to look at the obstacles already facing writers from marginalized communities,” Fredrick Joseph, who is Black and the author of the upcoming book, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person.
- About 76% of publishing industry staff in the U.S was white and 5% Black in 2019. Just 6% of children’s and young adult books published in the U.S in 2018 were written by Black authors, according to data for the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.
Barnes & Noble believed they could slap African Americans heads with African American covers on well known white tales. Better try next time!