Banned Black Books | Panel & Library Display

To combat the continued assault on Black history and culture, and especially books by Black authors, the African American Studies Department (AFR) and the Library hosted a Banned Black Book Month Panel for Black History Month 2024.

Photo credit: Laura Westengard
Photo credit: Wanett Clyde

Panelists: (l-r)
Dr. Bennett (AFR), Dr, Biswas (AFR), Dr. Banks (AFR), Dr. Richards (ENG), Prof. Abdul-Wasi (AFR), Dr. Sylvester (ENG)
Facilitator: Dr. Evangelista (AFR)
Host: Dr. Ferdinand, Department Chair (right)



We are in a climate where book bans are wielded like weapons. These threats to knowledge acquisition take many forms, but many of them have focused on removing access to Black history along with Black books. Stats from organizations like Pen America and the American Library Association highlight the disproportionate banning of content which celebrates or illuminates marginalized communities.

We solicited book titles by Black authors that have been banned in any capacity (regionally, educationally, etc.) from the City Tech Community. A selection of these submissions is now featured in the library’s display window along with catalog pages from Between the Covers Rare Books, color prints of artwork by Brooklyn native Jean-Michel Basquiat, black and white prints from Leroy Lucas’ “Growing Up Black” exhibit portfolio and photos from Peter Cohen‘s collection of snapshots and vernacular photographs.

Photo credit: Wanett Clyde
Photo credit: Wanett Clyde
Photo credit: Wanett Clyde

Click here to visit the exhibit’s accompanying slideshow and here for City Tech’s online Banned Black Book Collection which features titles we have available in the library.




November 30: “Racism, Eugenics & Antisemitism” discussion

It is not too late to register for “Racism, Eugenics & Antisemitism: Connections Between Jim Crow and the Nuremberg Race Laws,” an event featuring Tom White, Coordinator of Educational Outreach at the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene (NH) State College. The program is being held here at City Tech in cooperation with Queensborough Community College’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center. The event is on Thursday November 30 and runs from 1:00-2:15. One may attend in person or online via Zoom. For more details, please click here. After the event attendees will have the opportunity to explore the two galleries.

Please note that no coats or bags will be allowed in the event or exhibit spaces and must be checked. Please enter via the Community Center, 287 Jay Street. See directions here.

Books Unite Us Censorship Divides Us

Freedom to Read Under Attack 

Read Banned Books decorative graphicBanned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read, will be held September 18–24 this year. During this week, authors, booksellers, librarians, publishers, and readers come together to advocate for the right to read without censorship. The theme for 2022 is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”  

Free and open access to ideas and information is a critical element of our democracy. The observation of Banned Books Week pushes back against censors: people who try to remove or restrict access to books that they find threatening in some way.

Book challenges often come from parents who want to restrict access to materials they find offensive. They want to control what their children, and their neighbors’ children, can read in school classrooms and public libraries. Targets are often books by or about Black or LGBTQ people. Censors label these books as “obscene” or “harmful to minors” or even as tools for “grooming” children for exploitation. For example, the Proud Boys protesting at Drag Queen storytimes claim to be protecting children from the corrupting influence of fairy tales and glitter. 

Unfortunately, the intense political polarization of the past several years has resulted in an increase in censorship activity. Attempts to remove books from libraries, and attacks on librarians, are on the rise. According to the American Library Association, the number of banned and challenged books doubled from 2020 to 2021, reaching the highest number since tracking began. There were more than 729 attempted bans of 1,597 individual books in 2021. 

Another disturbing trend is that more states are passing legislation to ban books and to restrict what librarians and K-12 teachers can add to their reading lists and book collections. In states where these new laws are in effect, educators who attempt to share banned materials or even talk about bans are being harassed and threatened. Banned Books Week 2022 is an opportunity to applaud those who stand up for our freedom to read, even at a cost to themselves. 

For more information on book banning and censorship:

“How Efforts to Ban Books Impact Public Libraries” Discussed on WNYC’s “The Takeaway”

Why Are People Banning Books?

Book Bans? My School Doesn’t Even Have a Library (Opinion) 

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021. Of the 1597 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  • This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
  • Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit

If you want to read a banned or challenged book (including some of the ones listed above) and see what all the controversy is about, check out our display in the front area of the library!

This post was co-authored by Rachel Jones and Nora Almeida

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust memorial, Berlin; image by John C. Watkins V via Wikimedia Commons

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. We pause to remember those lost. May their memory be a blessing.

In October-November 2023 “Americans and the Holocaust,” a traveling exhibit sponsored by the American Library Association and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be coming to New York City College of Technology. Please check this space for further details and news about events.

April is Jazz Appreciation month

Jazz Appreciation Month art from the Smithsonian Museum
credit: Smithsonian Museum

Curious about jazz or love it already? The library has streaming music (you’ll find additional information about ways to listen on the Internet too) and films. We also have DVDs and CDs as well as lots of ebooks and print books. Under organizations and museums, you will find spaces that offer live jazz and and also have resources for listeners and musicians. If you are new to jazz, you’ll find that jazz is amazingly diverse; you’ll want to explore current and historical styles as you begin to develop your own tastes and preferences. Jazz is alive and well and we are very privileged to be in New York City where live performances regularly occur in clubs and outdoors. All About Jazz is a good website (and print publication) to find interviews, record reviews, and listings of local live performances.

Wikipedia image, Louis Armstrong began his career in New Orleans and became one of jazz's most recognizable performers.

Watch documentaries

Streaming documentaries on jazz in Academic Video Online (AVON) (requires login off-campus)

Ken Burn's Jazz documentary series, 10 DVD set

DVDs to watch Ken Burn’s epic documentary on jazz is in the library. Find the 10 DVD set in Multimedia, DVD 1858. You can borrow DVDs for seven days.

Listening resources


Print books you can borrow!

African American Music Reference books
Browse ebooks on jazz in African American Music Reference

Organizations and museums

It’s Not November but It’s Voting Season in NYC

Graphic of a bus with "The City is Yours" stenciled on the side
The City is Yours, Alex Dunn, CC-BY-NC 4.0

May 28 is the last day to register to vote in the June 22 primary election. The race for mayor is just one of several offices that hold primaries, which will determine who is on the ballot in November for the general election. New York has a ‘closed primary’ system which means, to vote in the primary election, you must register with a political party to vote in that party’s primary. In a city where 70% of registered voters are Democrats, is the race for Mayor decided by the Democratic primary? A lot of experts think so. 

Too many New Yorkers don’t vote in local elections but they should, especially for down ballot races! Local politicians make policies and write and enact legislation that impact: housing and land use, education access, climate change, transportation, policing, funding for social services, and more. Aside from mayor, other offices on the primary ballot in June are City Council, Borough President, Public Advocate, Comptroller, and Manhattan District Attorney. Check out who is on the ballot and read some of the resources below to learn where the candidates stand on the issues that matter to you. 

After you register, you should make a plan to vote and look up your polling location. Can’t vote on June 22nd? NYC has early voting for the primary starting on June 12th. Find out when and where you can vote early

More resources about how to vote and information about how you can get involved are available on the NYC Votes website. Wonder about ID requirements, translation services, or think you or a family member might need assistance at your polling place? The New York Public Research Interest Group (NYPIRG), which works directly with CUNY and has an office at City Tech with student interns, has a voters bill of rights

Why this Race is Important

All local elections have a real impact on our lives but right now we have a lot on the table: many NYC families are struggling after the pandemic to keep up with medical bills, pay their rent, or find a new job; a lot of voters want to change our policing system, which disproportionately targets people of color; and people have vastly different ideas on how we should go about creating safe streets, resolving the homeless crisis, ensuring low-income residents have access to technology, and more. 

This year is especially important because a majority of current City Council representatives are term-limited, meaning we have the chance to elect a lot of new people who represent small districts, usually comprising a couple of neighborhoods. Not sure what a City Council representative does? A lot more than you might think! 

Ranked Choice

This election is the first in which voters will be able to support multiple candidates by ranking them in order of preference. Why does this new provision exist? Because we voted for it on a ballot measure in 2019–a lot of people supported ranked choice voting because it might make politics more civil and give a platform to outsider candidates who people might not otherwise vote for because they are worried about wasting their vote.  

Important things to know about ranked choice voting are it’s OK to rank fewer than 5 candidates, and it is not OK to give two or more candidates the same rank. Ranking candidates does not affect your first choice. Want to learn more? Check out the NYC Board of Elections website for information and frequently asked questions about ranked choice. 

Mayoral Candidates

Of course, the largest focus this year has been the (Democratic) Mayoral race candidates. And City Tech students might have a particular interest in their plans about public higher education. So far, all of the candidates’ official websites mention CUNY as essential in workforce development and a valued partner in creating more teachers, nurses, entrepreneurs, engineers, etc. No candidates specifically address the needs of the CUNY system after years of economic austerity and post-pandemic cuts that have left a lot of campuses under-resourced. Below, we’ve aggregated some information about the candidates so you can learn more about their stance on CUNY and other civic issues.

Candidates In the NewsOccupation & Experience
Dianne MoralesInterview with NYTimesCEO of anti-poverty nonprofit in the Bronx; long experience with youth/P12 education; only person to mention CUNY at the first mayoral debate
Maya WileyInterview with NYTimesFormer counsel to current mayor Bill DeBlasio; New School professor
Kathryn GarciaInterview with NYTimesFormer DoS commissioner; ran NYC emergency food program during COVID-19 crisis
Eric AdamsInterview with NTimesCity Tech alum! and current Brooklyn Borough President; Has identified as a Republican in the past; Former police officer and founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement who Care
Shaun DonovanInterview with NYTimesFormer secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama Administration
Andrew YangInterview with NYTimesBusinessman and millionaire; Proponent of private sector partnerships in many areas of governance; has never voted in a local election!
Scott StringerInterview with NYTimesCurrent NYC Comptroller; free CUNY community college proponent; accused of sexual misconduct
Raymond McGuireInterview with NYTimesCorporate executive at Citigroup; lots of Wall Street investment in his campaign

Wonder what other New Yorkers think about the mayoral candidates? The New York Times interviewed people across the city to find out. 

What should the next NYC mayor do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

City Tech Ebooks on Political History and Voter Rights

This blog post was written collaboratively by Profs. Anne Leonard and Nora Almeida

June Jordan

A photograph of June Jordan

June Jordan was a powerhouse poet, activist, journalist, and educator. One of the most widely-published and highly-acclaimed writers of her time, Jordan was active in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar, and gay and lesbian rights movements. Through her poetry, essays, plays, and children’s literature, she spoke passionately about race, class, sexuality, and political struggles around the world.

Jordan was born in Harlem in 1936, the child of Jamaican immigrants who raised her in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A gifted student, she began writing poetry in elementary school. She attended boarding school in New England, where her teachers encouraged her writing but never shared the work of any Black writers with her. After earning a BA from Barnard College, Jordan began teaching at the City College of New York in 1966. She published her first book of poetry, Who Look at Me, in 1969. She went on to teach at Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, before becoming Professor of African-American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry For the People.

Jordan’s essays were published in magazines and newspapers around the world. She also published more than twenty-five major works of poetry, fiction, and children’s books before her death in 2002. In an interview shortly before her death, Jordan said that “the task of a poet of color, a black poet, as a people hated and despised, is to rally the spirit of your folks…I have to get myself together and figure out an angle, a perspective, that is an offering, that other folks can use to pick themselves up, to rally and to continue or, even better, to jump higher, to reach more extensively in solidarity with even more varieties of people to accomplish something. I feel that it’s a spirit task.”

Jordan’s books of poetry include the collections Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997, Haruko/Love Poems, Naming Our Destiny, Living Room: New Poems 1980-1984, and Things That I Do in the Dark. Her essay collections include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays, June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint, Technical Difficulties, and Civil Wars: Selected Essays 1963-1980.

You can access several online, full text works by Jordan in the City Tech Collection, including:

Life as Activism: June Jordan’s Writings from the Progressive

Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan.

National Poetry Month: Yes, you can borrow these books!

April is national poetry month and if our campus library was open, I’d pick out some of my favorite books from our collection and some of new poetry books that I haven’t had a chance to read yet. I’d put them on a little tiered shelf in the front of the library with a sign that says:

Yes, you can borrow these books!

And I hope you would.

A lot of people think that poetry isn’t their thing but I usually think they probably just haven’t found a poem they really like yet.

Some of the poems that have meant the most to me have been poems that I’ve come across when I needed them, or that have helped me understand something about myself or the world. There are a few poems that I return to often. There’s a poem that I read when I’m sad and a poem for when I am nervous. There’s one I read when I can’t fall asleep. There’s this poem, by one of my former poetry teachers at Brooklyn College, which reminds me of my hometown. There’s this poem that I’ve read a million times that I love and still don’t fully understand.

There’s this video of the poet L.S. Asekoff (another former teacher of mine) reading a poem called Sparrow at a bar in Brooklyn that no longer exists that makes me think of all of the other places in New York that don’t exist.

And I usually read the Preface to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855 edition) on my birthday.

This is my favorite part:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . .

This year instead of a display in the library, I thought I’d highlight a few online spaces where you can read and listen to poems (and watch videos of people reading). Here is also a link to a database of small presses that publish work by new and emerging writers and a link to Small Press Distribution where you can buy affordable books that support these presses.

Segue online reading series (videos)

Electronic Poetry Center

Penn Sound Poetry Archives (audio)

Poetry Project House Party (digital performance and publications…and also writing prompts)

Invisible Women in Women’s History Month

It’s March, which means it is Women’s History Month, a commemoration of “the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields”…with one notable exception: the field of domestic labor.

Domestic labor—cooking, cleaning, childcare, and other activities related to household maintenance—remains largely invisible and undervalued. Domestic labor is mostly done by women, and particularly women of color, who keep those around them fed, safe, clean, and cared for. It is essential work, without which no other economic activity could take place, but it is considered unworthy, for example, of being an achievement to celebrate during Women’s History Month.

Photograph of Wages for Housework supporters at an International Women’s Day march in New York City,
Wages for Housework supporters at an International Women’s Day march in New York City, 1977. Photo by: Freda Weinland.

Silvia Federici, who was one of the organizers of the Wages for Housework movement, has described domestic labor as “a form of gendered economic oppression and an exploitation upon which all of capitalism rests.” Domestic labor enables others to work outside the home, and to enjoy higher status jobs and better wages. It is the invisible work that makes all other work possible.

If women in the United States earned minimum wage for their unpaid domestic labor, they would have made $1.5 trillion last year, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Imagine what would happen if women either refused to do any domestic labor or insisted on being paid for it. Our entire economy would be transformed.

Of course, some people are paid for doing domestic labor. During the past three decades, as more and more women entered the workforce, those with enough income (usually white, college-educated, and middle to upper class) began to pay others to help care for their children or clean their homes or even buy their groceries for them. The majority of domestic workers in the United States are low-waged women of color and immigrants. Women with privilege working outside the home have depended on outsourcing domestic labor to women with less privilege. Even though there have been efforts to organize and protect domestic workers from exploitation, they don’t have much protection, and are often denied formal benefits and time off to care for their own families.

During the last year, with schools and offices closed and an New York State executive order that classified most domestic workers as “inessential”, more people had to perform their own domestic labor rather than outsourcing it. Many women with privilege have been forced to quit their jobs, as they can no longer hire domestic workers to help them. Because of the pandemic, some have become more aware that their careers and comfortable lifestyles depend on the underpaid labor of undervalued domestic workers. It seems like a good moment to reevaluate the low value assigned to life-maintaining labor and to start celebrating women for all of the kinds of work they do.

Want to learn more about women and work? Check out these ebooks from the City Tech Library!

[This post was co-authored with City Tech Librarians Nora Almeida and Wanett Clyde.]