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 However, a spokesperson said the problems with the contract process led to the rescinded invitation and not the post.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.


The GOP debate field was asked about Trump. But most attacks focused on Nikki Haley

With just over a month before the 2024 primary calendar begins, the debate demonstrated how firm Trump's grip remains on the party.

Alabama’s prison population sees troubling growth in latest DOJ report

For the first time in nearly a decade, U.S. prison populations are trending up. Alabama's numbers are a part of troubling gains across the Gulf South.

A narrowing Republican presidential field will debate in Tuscaloosa Wednesday

Four candidates will be on stage at the University of Alabama for their last scheduled meeting before the Iowa caucuses kick off the presidential nominating season next month. Former President Donald Trump, the race’s clear front-runner, will not be among them.

Place, Erased: A virtual listening session with the Gulf States Newsroom; RSVP now

Join us as we listen to the recent series about towns transformed by major environmental shifts and talk with the reporters about what they learned.

Tuberville is ending blockade of most military nominees

Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions was over a dispute about a Pentagon abortion policy. The Alabama Republican said Tuesday he’s “not going to hold the promotions of these people any longer.”

Man featured in ‘S-Town’ podcast shot and killed by police during standoff, authorities say

Joseph Tyler Goodson was shot by officers after he barricaded himself inside a home and “brandished a gun" at officers early Sunday, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said. Bibb County Coroner Patrick Turner said that Goodson was pronounced “brain dead” Tuesday night at a hospital.

More Education Coverage