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Chilling Editorial Cartoons About Book Banning: Book Censorship News, May 31, 2024

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Editorial cartoons are a powerful medium. Like local news itself, the editorial cartoon has become a rarer institution, with few papers employing a staff member whose job is to create editorial cartoons (either full or part-time). But when editorial cartoons do start to make the rounds, they’re powerful reminders of the potency a visual can have to tell a story with few, if any, words.

Comics are among the most targeted books in the current rise of book banning, but they’ve also earned this dubious honor since their widespread availability following World War II. You can see how eager book banners are to remove comics by perusing the most frequently banned comics since 2000 — and you can and should get to know the history of the juvenile delinquency hearings which centered on moral panic over young people’s access to comics.

Book banning and the “culture wars” have seen their time in the editorial cartoon sun. Let’s look at a handful of these images from the past several years. All credit is given to the creators so you can discover some of their other work as well. Of note and of what should be little surprise given the lack of editorial cartoonists working and the field of comics more broadly, the artists here are overwhelmingly male because I’ve stuck to more mainstream media.

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Free Press, 9/8/23

mama bear editorial cartoon by clay bennett

You might recall this particularly chilling editorial cartoon from Bennett. Not only does it depict the bloodshed Moms for Liberty is proud to be associated with, but it was then manipulated by Moms For Liberty in order to further push the very message conveyed in the comic. This is one of my favorite comics to use not only because of how much of the story it tells but because the response that follows is such an excellent example of how groups like Moms have profited and grown from flagrant mis-, dis-, and mal- information.

JD Crowe, for Media Group, March 8, 2023

editorial cartoon by jd crowe,

Nothing more needs to be said than what is said in the image alone. But Crowe doesn’t actually just drop the cartoon. He’s also written an excellent piece to accompany it that is worth reading.

He writes:

Alabama libraries are under fire by a bunch of rabid right-wing modern day witch burners. No surprise. It’s another example of Alabama politics at its worst. Political fear mongering, paranoia and ignorance fuels this firestorm.

The villains represented in this cartoon are (L-R): Clean Up Alabama, Moms for Liberty, Eagle ForumGov. Kay Ivey and State Sen. Chris Elliott. (You’re welcome, y’all.) Others, such as Alabama GOP Party chair/Alabama Public Library Service board member, John Wahl, 1819 News guy Bryan Dawson and Alabama AG Steve Marshall are crouching behind the burning stake.


We need to be grateful cartoonists like this not only exist but that their work is not being censored from the get-go.

Drew Sheneman, Tribune Content Agency in the Dallas Morning News, March 27, 2023

Drew Sheneman editorial comic from the dallas morning news.

I’d argue that the moon landing wouldn’t be allowed under this regime, either, but if it’s from the perspective of it being a hoax, maybe it is aligned with book banner standards. We just need to see the camera and microphones in the room for parents who need to monitor the educators.

John Cole, for Cagle Comics and published in several outlets beginning with the Georgia Recorder, October 12, 2023

john cole editorial cartoon.

What’s especially poignant about this one is that it’s groups like Moms For Liberty who spread flagrant mis- and dis- information about how today’s kids can’t read.

Etta Hulme, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 26, 1997

etta hulme editorial cartoon.

No, you don’t need your eyes checked. This is an editorial cartoon from 1997 that is as contemporary today as possible. Hulme died in 2014 but her cartoon could be slipped into today’s newspapers and be even more timely and relevant. It’s not even satire anymore about the dictionary being too profane for school classrooms and libraries.

Book Censorship News: May 31, 2024

  • “At 3:27 p.m. last Friday, McAllen ISD Superintendent René Gutiérrez and then-Board President Debbie Crane Aliseda received a not-so-subtly threatening email with a demand: purge your schools’ libraries of 676 books or else.” The book banners are continuing their book banning work in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley school districts. Here’s a second story about this, which emphasizes how the pastor and his friends initiated this nonsense plan to just sue districts if they do not get their way.
  • Harford County Public Schools (MD) will have 27 people on their committees deciding the fates of several challenged books.
  • Remember Summer Boismier, the high school English teacher in Norman, Oklahoma, who was fired for giving her students access to a QR code that would let them get books from the Brooklyn Public Library? That was two years ago, and she’s finally got a trial date set for June to find out whether or not her teaching license will be revoked. Yes, for giving students access to a QR code that grants them a library card from Brooklyn Public Library.
  • The Baldwin County Public Library Cooperative (AL) board fired all employees last week, which will delay essential library services in the county. No, of course no reason has been given yet.
  • “Residents affiliated with Moms for Liberty called on the Madison City Council Tuesday to withhold funding to the Huntsville Madison County Public Library [AL] system unless it updates policy to restrict LGBTQ books.” So the book banners now are simply going to do what they can to defund libraries that don’t comply with their bigotry. I said this in 2021 and 2022 and 2023 and I’ll say this again now, halfway through 2024: this is the goal.
  • While we’re in Oklahoma, two more schools are being investigated for having books deemed by the state to be against the law. Here’s a choice quote about the America that’s happening right here, in America: “the school was indoctrinating children on how to become social justice warriors through a Social Problems class.”
  • I do not think things in the Hanover School District (VA) are going to improve with two new board appointments — expect more book bans here, folks, especially when one of the appointees was a donor to the Supervisor who selected him (not to mention his statement about how unfit today’s kids are for the military!). Here’s a basic overview of this county’s book banning journey.
  • Louisiana is on the verge of passing its own “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill in the state. I hope this means that teachers in heterosexual partnerships also can’t talk about their relationships and no photos are allowed on their desks, either.
  • “The Louisiana Senate gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that would allow parish library systems to hire directors who are not certified librarians — after senators added in language a House committee rejected that would allow library board members to be dismissed without cause.” They are aiming squarely at libraries. Still. Have been now for several years and raising the stakes each time.
  • In the incident where cops entered a Massachusetts school looking for Gender Queer in a classroom — which the teacher is now rightfully suing over — the nonsense cost taxpayers upwards of $39,000.
  • This week, St. Johns County Schools (FL) are considering banning four books, Slaughter House Five, The Freedom Writers Diary, L8r G8r, and A Stolen Life. They’ve elected to not ban them outright but restrict them to 11th and 12th graders only.
  • Greenville County Schools (SC) banned three books this week, which are Ellen Hopkins’s Perfect and Tilt, as well as Sarah J. Maas’s Empire of Storms.
  • “Two meetings this week put the focus on the amount of time and resources Alachua County Public Schools [FL] employees are spending on book challenges.” That would be the entire point right there. Next meeting over books that might get banned is in mid-June.
  • California’s Freedom to Read Act, which would ban book bans in public libraries, is moving now from the Assembly to the Senate. This is great news.
  • New Hampshire book banners are so scared to share their bigotry because they might be called bigots get spotlighted in this article. I guess they’re thrilled that New Hampshire is close to legislating book banning and also allowing unlicensed educators to be at the front of classrooms.
  • Did you know the book banning law in Tennessee allows a book to be removed if there is even a passage that contains “obscene language or images?” The Miller Test no longer applies.
  • The proposed closures of libraries and laying off of nearly 40 library workers in St. Charles (MO) points a finger right back at the board’s ineptitude, including their desire to focus on banning books, rather than on solving the problem they should have seen coming years ago. If digital materials are eating the budget because people are accessing digital books, audiobooks, and films more than print material, a responsible, adult leadership team would update their budget to reflect this. But alas, we have to ban an adult book in the adult section, among other things.
  • The ImagineIf Library (MT) — now renamed to its original name Flathead County Libraries to distance themselves from their rampant censorship and mismanagement by the board — will have new logos to vote from in the next few weeks. Hopefully, they don’t have anything with the colors red, yellow, orange, green, blue, indigo, or violet, since those have riled other book banners in the state previously.
  • St. Joseph Schools (MO) offers a mealy-mouthed comment on book challenges in the district and I wish I were joking: “So I would anticipate yes, some of them could be taken out of the library, and some of them could stay just depends on what that committee decides.” What books are a big question mark since the story doesn’t say.
  • Here’s a letter to the editor from an individual who is mad that the Flint River Library System (GA) won’t just accept his donation of a homophobic book. Regardless of content, sir, it’s likely right in the policies that the library doesn’t just put donated books into the collection. But you know, go ahead and be mad. (Psst: it doesn’t have professional reviews, either, but certainly you know more than actual library professionals on how to run a library).
  • “Book activists” in Canada — eager to ban some books they don’t like — had their mics cut off because they misrepresented what they came to complain about. Canada, you’ve got groups, too, and you’ve had them for a while. Here’s one.
  • Shreve Public Library (LA) now has their restricted library cards set up, per new state law, meaning any and all patrons under 18 need to have mommy or daddy come sign them up for a new card. That actually means thousands of young people will now have no access since this is one of the biggest hurdles to young people getting library cards. Again, that’s the point.