BY KATHY HERSH
DeLand Quakers gave away almost 500 books at the rescheduled Juneteenth event July 29 at the Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center in Earl Brown Park in DeLand.
Throughout the day, hundreds of men, women and children stopped at the booth to browse through boxes labeled by categories and children’s reading levels. They couldn’t believe the books were free.
The Quakers had been collecting books for months as a response to the widespread culling of Black-history books from school libraries in reaction to the Anti-Woke Act promoted by Gov. Ron DeSantis and passed by the Florida Legislature, making it a felony to teach or lend books on Black history not vetted by the Florida Department of Education.
We were hoping to get 100 books. But books kept coming. We were stunned to receive nearly 500 books in the mail, delivered by UPS, and left on doorsteps. A woman in Pennsylvania donated $100 by PayPal.
“Local DeLand residents, educators, librarians and civil rights advocates donated hundreds of books to us,” says Kathy Hersh, a member of the DeLand Quaker group. “We even got shipments of books from donors in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. People everywhere are worried about the censorship of books and the whitewashing of Black history in Florida and its ripple effect elsewhere in the country.”
Many were eager to read about lesser-known luminaries of Black history like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Grandmothers searched through boxes of beautifully illustrated young children’s books for reading aloud to their grandchildren.
“I was a teacher in California in 1980, and there were no books in the school on Black history,” said a retired educator. “I had to buy them myself. I can’t believe you are giving these away.”
She reached into her purse and pulled a $5 bill out of her wallet.
“Here. I want to contribute a little something to what you are doing.” And then she gave a big hug to the person who had helped her make her selection.