July 10, 2013

Protests continue after black history books are found in Detroit area dumpster


Highland Park residents took their anger over the loss of thousands of books to the streets on Monday.

Residents of Highland Park, a small Detroit area city, found a large collection of black history books, tapes, film strips and other materials in the trash outside of the local highschool at the end of June. The investigation into why thousands of books were thrown out—some of them rare—has sparked a debate about lack of funds that the Highland Park district has to spend on preserving the collection.

Emergency Manager Donald Weatherspoon claimed that the books were thrown out by mistake, but protesters are still concerned. On Monday, reports emerged that Andre Davis, secretary of the school’s board of directors, resigned over disagreement with Weatherspoon about how the historic collection was handled, comparing his attitude to that of the former Emergency Manager, Joyce A. Parker:

“She [Joyce A. Parker] understood she had to balance the books somehow, but she wasn’t interested in destroying our community,” Davis said, comparing Parker to Weatherspoon. “To say [Weatherspoon] is not in the business of storing books and libraries, isn’t that what education is supposed to be about — books and knowledge?”

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, historian and Highland Park resident Paul Lee, who helped build the collection, said that “in diversity, range and depth, that library rivaled most community college libraries.”

Lee said the district began building its black history collection after the civil rights movement, a result of a demand by activists for black history studies to be integrated into the school curriculum. In the 1990s, the district appointed him to a committee, part of a broader effort to expand its black history curriculum.

On Monday, Deblon Jackson, a Detroit-area musician, told the Atlantic Wire that she’s not giving up:

“We have a protest scheduled every day this week until we get what we want,” she said. “They don’t want the children to read, in my opinion. How do you have a library with no books? How do you mistakenly throw books out?”


Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.