About CALS Banned Books Week

September 27 – October 3, 2020

Join us for our 10th annual Banned Books Week at CALS, as we celebrate the battle against censorship!

Groups that resist book banning have protected classic works such as To Kill a Mockingbird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Lord of the Flies. These books that address important themes often contain disturbing scenes, as they reflect realistic challenges and situations in our world. But without disturbing us, authors would not be able to convey important truths such as the violence and injustice caused by racism, or the mistreatment of the mentally ill. Banned Books Week honors freedom of choice for individuals, as well as the freedom to write on and read about important cultural topics even when those topics have the power to offend.

an illustrative graphic showing the institutions that have books challenged

2020 Spotlight Book

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

autobiography of malcolm x book cover imageThis year, Banned Books Week at CALS will highlight The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a book TIME Magazine has called one of the “ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century.” The book has been challenged and even restricted over the years because “the slain Black Muslim leader advocated anti-white racism and violence” and the book “is a ‘how-to-manual’ for crime.”

Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, has written that he, “believed very much in the power of words to influence and transform lives…Not everyone agreed with my father’s philosophy or methodology; he was considered complicated, intricate, and complex. His plan of action, regardless of the stages of his life, his agenda, and his perspective, were always poignantly clear…He was an advocate of cultural and social reconstruction—until a balance of equality was shared, ‘by any means necessary.’” The phrase meant “examine the obstacles, determine the vision, find the resolve, and explore the alternatives toward dissolving the obstacles,” according to Shabazz.

a graphic word cloud showing the most common reasons books are challenged

Banned Books Week Writing Contest


Submissions should be 100 to 1,000 words, typed. One entry per Arkansas resident, 18 and older. The first page of each submission must include the author’s name, address, email, and telephone number and whether CALS has permission to share the entry. Please send entries to:

CALS Banned Books Writing Contest
100 Rock St.
Little Rock, AR 72201

or email to SixBridgesBookFest@cals.org.

The winner and honorable mention from the 2019 Banned Books writing contest are ineligible to win. Entries will be accepted beginning Tuesday, Sept. 1 and must be received by Friday, Sept. 25. Entries will be judged on flow, originality, clarity, potency, and strength of imagery and/or argument. Humor is appreciated, but not required. The winner will receive $350 and the honorable mention will receive $100; both winners will be announced Friday, Oct. 2.

Option A

Inspired loosely by chapter seventeen or MECCA…Write a chapter of the autobiography of an often-misunderstood figure. Include the name of that person somewhere in the text. The chapter should include a theme of growth, include at least one major obstacle, and reflect a significant moment when that famous person experienced a transformation, extreme change, or possible epiphany. The chapter should be written in first person.

Option B

Write dialogue only for a conversation between Malcolm X and Barack Obama after he won the Presidency. This can be the ghost of Malcolm X or an alternate reality where Malcolm X was not assassinated. For example:

Would Malcolm be proud of President Obama, skeptical about why he was elected, or feel some other way? Would he ask him to be careful? Encourage him to be bold? Warn him about abuse of power and the dangers of following others? Or would he discuss something else entirely? Be sure to differentiate the voices. The names of the two leaders will not be part of your word count.

a graphic showing the kinds of materials, in addition to books, that are challenged each year

Malcolm X: Make It Plain Watch Party

“Political philosopher and visionary, husband and father, dynamic orator and militant minister. In his lifetime, Malcolm X was many men. Born Malcolm Little, he later became “Detroit Red” and “New York Red” – a hustler, drug pusher, pimp, con man and the head of a Boston robbery ring. After spending time in prison, he emerged as Minister Malcolm – Malcolm X, the fiery, eloquent spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Finally, he became El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, an internationally recognized leader and advocate for oppressed peoples. He was both loved and despised, revered and feared – until an assassin’s bullet cut him down at age 39…

cover image for the documentary

This film chronicles Malcolm X’s remarkable journey from his birth on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, to his assassination at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City on February 21, 1965. His compelling story is told through the memories of people who had close personal and working relationships with him: prominent figures such as Maya Angelou, Ossie Davis and Alex Haley; Nation of Islam associates, including Wallace D. Muhammad, the son of Elijah Muhammad; and family members, including his wife, Betty Shabazz, and his oldest daughter, Attallah Shabazz. Included is extensive archival footage of Malcolm X, speaking in his own words at meetings and rallies, and in media interviews.” From pbs.org/wgbh

Join us for the virtual watch party LIVE on Monday, September 28 at 7PM CST

Join the Watch Party

a graphic showing the kinds of materials, in addition to books, that are challenged each year

Crazy Free Books 2020

In this third year for this program, interested readers are able to secure one of 50 free copies of The Autobiography of Malcolm X on a first message received, first served basis until the books have all been claimed. Beginning Sept. 1 at 8 a.m. please email SixBridgesBookFest@CALS.org if you would like one. Put CRAZY FREE BOOKS in your subject line, please. Please include a mailing address.