Virginia’s largest public library revamped its Black History Month reading list this week to include three Clarence Thomas books after an inquiry from The Daily Signal.
The Fairfax County Public Library, which just hosted a taxpayer-funded event for 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones last weekend, originally didn’t feature a single book about the Supreme Court justice on its curated list of recommendations for Black History Month.
The Daily Signal inquired about the omission Tuesday. Two days later, three books were prominently displayed on the library’s homepage: Thomas’ memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” and “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.”
Thomas is one of Northern Virginia’s most influential residents, serving as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court for more than 30 years and authoring legal opinions that have shaped the country’s direction for over a generation.
As if snubbing the history-making Supreme Court justice wasn’t bad enough, the Fairfax County Public Library shelled out a whopping $29,350 to host Hannah-Jones for a Black History Month event Sunday on her revisionist 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones earned a total of $35,350—or approximately $589 per minute—when the McLean Community Center kicked in an additional $6,000.
The New York Times Magazine writer, who teaches at Howard University in Washington, D.C., also received first-class airfare to appear at the Alden Theatre in ritzy McLean, Virginia. Rather than deliver a 45-minute talk, as her contract states, Hannah-Jones instead took questions from Karla Bruce, chief equity officer for Fairfax County, about her book “The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story.”
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After first publishing the divisive 1619 Project essay in August 2019, Hannah-Jones embarked on a nationwide tour to campaign for reparations, rewrite history, and indoctrinate students. The New York Times distributed the 1619 Project to schools and Hannah-Jones created the 1619 Freedom School in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, as an after-school literacy program.
Hannah-Jones’ appearance followed the library’s virtual event in December with “anti-racist” crusader Ibram X. Kendi, who was paid $22,500 by the Fairfax County Public Library for his appearance.
It’s not that the Fairfax County Public Library lacked options for highlighting Thomas. The justice’s memoir, “My Grandfather’s Son,” was published in 2007, and he is the subject of several other books, including “The Enigma of Clarence Thomas” by Corey Robin and “Created Equal” by Michael Pack and Mark Paoletta.
The omission is reminiscent of the Smithsonian’s decision to exclude Thomas from the National Museum of African American History and Culture upon its opening in 2016, while instead featuring Anita Hill, who falsely accused Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation in 1991. A year after opening—and protests from conservatives—the museum added an exhibit about Thomas and Thurgood Marshall, the late Supreme Court justice.
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The hostility toward Thomas is currently playing out in his native Georgia, where Democrats recently voted in unison against a proposed statue of him on the state Capitol grounds.
This month, in celebration of Black History Month, the Fairfax County Public Library’s homepage features a list of 50 books. In addition to Thomas’ recently added memoir, it has titles such as “The Antiracist Business Book: An Equity-Centered Approach to Work, Wealth, and Leadership,” “All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep,” and “Black American History for Dummies.”
The Fairfax County Public Library is supported with taxpayer funding. The county’s 2023 budget allocated $32 million to fund the library’s 23 branches.
The library has nine copies of Thomas’ memoir and seven copies of the CD version of the audiobook. After an inquiry from the author, it recently purchased five copies of “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.”
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The Daily Signal contacted the library Tuesday to ask why the Thomas books weren’t included on the list.
Jessica Hudson, the library’s director, responded in a statement: “We have a team of librarians who volunteer to curate timely book lists. Thank you for the suggestion and we will make sure our other Clarence Thomas-focused titles are included.”
It’s not just Thomas-focused books that were missing from the Fairfax County Public Library list. Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez, author of the bestseller “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution,” isn’t included either. The title isn’t even listed in the library’s catalog. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of Heritage.)
Excluded Elsewhere, Too
Two of Fairfax County’s neighboring public libraries, in Alexandria and Arlington, make no reference to Thomas in their Black History Month collections and events.
The Arlington Public Library has a “black voices” reading list featuring hundreds of books. Its black nonfiction list includes titles such as “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.” It also features authors Angela Davis, a communist, and the twice-defeated election-denier Stacy Abrams.
Alexandria Library, where the first-ever library sit-in for civil rights took place in 1939, doesn’t advertise a Black History Month reading list. It does, however, feature a webpage “highlighting the lives and careers of six outstanding individuals in the African American community.” Thomas is not one of the six.
Thomas’ memoir “My Grandfather’s Son” and Pack and Paoletta’s “Created Equal” aren’t only excluded from the Black History Month list from the Fairfax County Public Library. Their books are also missing on the popular Libby app, which allows users to listen to audiobooks or read e-books if they have a library card.
A search on the Libby app for Thomas’ name yields just two results: “Fraternity” by Diane Brady and “Reimagining Equality” by Anita Hill.
Brady’s book is about the Rev. John Brooks’ effort in 1968 to recruit 20 students, including Thomas, to the College of Holy Cross, where Brooks would later serve as president. Hill wrote about “home ownership and the American Dream through the lens of race and gender.”
A spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Public Library directed The Daily Signal to a webpage, “Busting Myths About Library eBooks,” and elaborated with a statement from the library’s director.
“FCPL has a limited budget and cannot afford to buy every book in every format,” Hudson said. “Investment in FCPL’s digital collection is driven by borrower demand; our cardholders can put in requests for titles they’d like to see included. In 2022, we received 142,000 requests for 63,451 unique titles and while the library strives to meet as many requests and needs as possible, it is not always feasible to make available all titles in both print and digital format.”
Now in Circulation
To the library’s credit, a month ago it didn’t have any copies of “Created Equal.” Today, the library has five books in circulation.
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Hudson explained: “While ‘Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words’ deserves a place in our collection, we opted to purchase several copies of the physical book rather than licensing as an eBook or eAudiobook because the digital options would have been considerably more expensive and only available to FCPL borrowers for two years due to publisher sales models for libraries.”
“Created Equal” is a follow-up to a documentary by the same name. The two-hour film features exclusive interviews with Thomas and his wife Ginni, beginning with Thomas’ life growing up in Pin Point, Georgia, through his service on the Supreme Court. The documentary is available on several streaming services, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and YouTube.
Faced with the dilemma of what do to with the more than 25 hours of interview footage that didn’t make it into the movie, Pack and Paoletta decided to feature it in the book. The book was published in 2022. The Heritage Foundation featured the authors at an event last June.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include new information about the three books featured on the Fairfax County Public Library website.
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