Vonnegut Library Fights Slaughterhouse-Five Ban with Giveaways

Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - 17:30
Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

In response to a Missouri school board’s order to ban Slaughterhouse-Five from the Republic High School library and curriculum, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis will offer a free copy of the book to the first 150 of the school’s students requesting one.

Julia Whitehead, executive director of the nonprofit institution honoring the Indianapolis native, said in the August 5 Huffington Post that the gift, funded by an anonymous donor, was part of an effort to raise public awareness of the school board’s decision to remove the antiwar novel. “All of these students will be eligible to vote, and some may be protecting our country through military service in the next year or two,” Whitehead said in a statement.

“It is shocking and unfortunate that those young adults and citizens would not be considered mature enough to handle the important topics raised by Kurt Vonnegut, a decorated war veteran. Everyone can learn something from his book.”

After the school board’s decision, the Vonnegut Library began working with Doug Bonney, legal director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, the Huffington Post reported. Bonney said the ACLU would be sending the board a Sunshine Act request for all the records and minutes from its meetings in order to determine the precise reasons for the book’s removal. “If the reason is that the district didn’t like the ideas in the book,” he said, “then yes, that is unconstitutional.”

In her statement posted to the Vonnegut Library Facebook page, Whitehead quoted Vonnegut himself on such matters: “All these people talk so eloquently about getting back to good old-fashioned values . . . and I say let’s get back to the good old-fashioned First Amendment of the good old-fashioned Constitution of the United States—and to hell with the censors! Give me knowledge or give me death!”