- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2021

Not every book written by a prominent Black author focuses on racism and oppression, although you wouldn’t necessarily know that by looking at the latest Barnes & Noble promotion.

After the bookseller sent out a plug for books by leftist authors, Black conservatives called on the company to diversify by featuring titles about Black excellence and achievement. They said the selected works “define Blacks solely through the lens of victimization.”

“You have the power to shape our country’s understanding of the Black American story,” Woodson Center founder Robert Woodson and senior visiting fellow Ian Rowe said in an open letter Thursday.

“As a large global literacy company, it is imperative that you include stories that celebrate Black excellence and showcase the millions of Black Americans who have prospered to balance the demoralizing portrait your current list paints,” they said.

They cited the bookseller’s November marketing email, which touts titles by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, Angela Davis and others.

Mr. Woodson and Mr. Rowe said the bookseller’s focus is “damaging” to Black children in particular.

“We understand you are concerned with demonstrating your commitment to fighting racism, but please understand that the most damaging effects of going too far with ‘woke’ virtue signaling — telling only stories of Black oppression and victimization — fall on lower-income children of color, who are implicitly told that they are helpless victims with no power or agency to shape their own futures,” they said.

The letter suggested books highlighted by the Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites initiative, including titles by Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Gwendolyn Brooks and Thomas Sowell.

Also recommended were books by Black authors affiliated with 1776 Unites network, including Clarence Page, Glenn Loury, Carol Swain, Buster Soaries, Jason Hill, John McWhorter, Shelby Steele, John Sibley Butler and Wilfred Reilly.

“There are so many stories of Black excellence that should be highlighted and celebrated,” the letter said.

Barnes & Noble did not immediately respond to a Washington Times request for comment.

The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites seeks to counter the slavery-centered 1619 Project, a series in The New York Times that makes slavery and racism the overarching theme of U.S. history. The 1776 Unites curriculum emphasizes freedom, rejects “victimhood culture” and showcases Black Americans who have “prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals,” the center said.

“We hope that, going forward, Barnes and Noble will include a diversity of Black voices in their recommendations in order to better reflect the variety that are indeed the key to our strength,” the letter said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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