Hoover City Schools canceled Derrick Barnes’ visit. He says it’s political

Side-by-side images show the book cover of "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut" and a photo of the author.

Derrick Barnes' award-winning book "Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut" is one of several children's books Barnes has authored.

Agate Publishing, Derrick Barnes

Children’s book author Derrick Barnes had been scheduled to offer several talks in the Birmingham area next week. But now, none will happen.

Barnes believes the reasons for the cancellations are political. The author and his supporters also say the incident is part of a trend to limit access to books that feature Black protagonists.

The visits were originally to be at three Hoover elementary schools. Barnes and his agent had been in talks with Hoover City Schools since April.

But last week, school officials abruptly canceled the visits by the award-winning author, saying the reason for the cancellation was a contract issue. A parent had complained about a social media post Barnes allegedly made. However, a spokesperson said the problems with the contract process led to the rescinded invitation and not the post.

WBHM asked for copies of the post, but no one at the school system was able to produce it. Upon further inquiry, a spokesperson for the school system also admitted that no school officials had even seen the post.

Barnes says the school system should have been honest from the beginning.

“It’s just so cowardly to me,” Barnes said. “If you have an issue with Black authors or somebody that you may consider possibly indoctrinating your children, just say that. Don’t come up with these excuses.”

Misty Mathews’ son attends one of the schools Barnes was supposed to visit. She’s frustrated.

“If you’ve looked at his books, they’re not controversial,” Mathews said. “They just involve Black kids doing regular everyday things. So, to tell this author, ‘You’re not welcome here,’ it really sends a message that I don’t think Hoover City Schools should be sending or that they want to send.”

Mathews is also concerned that a vocal minority could have caused the district to scuttle the visits.

“It seems like it was one or two parents who complained about the situation and that seems to have been sufficient to cause a change.”

Barnes agrees.

“It’s very frustrating that these few voices kind of dictate what other people’s children read or what kind of authors come to their school,” he said. “This is asinine. I hope this is squelched and we are not going in this direction.”

Controversies concerning race, however, are on the rise. In 2021, the Alabama Board of Education banned teaching critical race theory in K-12 schools. That rule came even after State Superintendent Eric Mackey acknowledged that the state had yet to receive any complaints about critical race theory being taught by a teacher in the state.

A bill narrowly failed in the Alabama legislature last year that would’ve prohibited the teaching of “divisive concepts” related to race, as well as religion and sex in public K-12 schools, colleges, universities and certain training programs. Another version of that bill has been pre-filed ahead of the state’s upcoming 2023 session.

With efforts like those in mind, Barnes sees the Hoover cancellation as part of a larger struggle.

“I want this to blow over and just go again where I’m wanted,” he said. “But I can’t just let it blow over if I have an opportunity to say something.”

Still, the incident hit a nerve.

“I try to write books that God willing, hopefully — I mean, it may sound corny — to write books that make the world a better place, and to get this kind of response, man, it’s really, it’s disheartening.”  

Because of the Hoover schools’ cancellations, Barnes has scrapped a talk at the Hoover Public Library. He says he’s worried a visit there could attract protestors or worse. A talk at an elementary school in the Alabaster City School district will still take place, though Barnes will attend virtually.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the Hoover City Schools says the cancelation was due only to the contract dispute and not the alleged social media post from Barnes.


An inside look at an AP African American Studies class

As Southern political leaders continue to take aim at critical race theory in education, students at Baton Rouge Magnet High call the AP pilot class empowering.

Volunteers are driving in to offer hot meals, necessities to Mississippi tornado survivors

The gym of a Rolling Fork school has become a makeshift hub to get much-needed emergency aid, meals and hope for thousands affected by the tornadoes.

UAB tops Utah Valley, sets up Conference USA showdown in NIT

UAB beat Utah Valley 88-86 in overtime to set up an all-Conference USA final in the NIT. UAB will face North Texas for the fourth time this season on Thursday for the NIT championship.

As midwifery evolves, this Mississippi museum is preserving the history of granny midwives

Granny midwives were some of the first to universalize the practice of midwifery in the South. A permanent installation hopes to share their history.

In Rolling Fork, a congregation comes together to save a century-old church

After a deadly EF-4 tornado, a Mississippi town finds hope in the hands of volunteers.

‘We’re going to help them’: How Mississippians are banding together after a devastating tornado

Officials, aid organizations and volunteers sprung into action on Saturday to help Mississippi begin rebuilding in the aftermath of a powerful tornado.

More Education Coverage