Former President Barack Obama is amplifying his opposition against book-banning efforts, utilizing the popular platform TikTok as a conduit. The ex-president was featured in videos on TikTok accounts of local libraries, endorsing a variety of literature.
In a video on the TikTok account of Kankakee Public Library in Chicago, librarians are seen engaging with books such as Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, and Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. These books have been the subject of ban proposals by conservative groups and Republican politicians. Obama appears briefly at the end of the video, engrossed in a book before the screen transitions to the message “Reading can transport you to new worlds.”
In another video by the Harris County Public Library in Houston, Texas, Obama interacts with a character named “Curbside Larry.” The former president requests Larry to maintain his “library voice” while also echoing his sentiment that everyone should have access to reading, told The Washington Post.
These libraries, as well as others in California, Maryland, and Illinois, posted videos with Obama as part of the Obama Foundation’s Freedom to Read Campaign. Obama initiated the campaign with a letter to the nation’s librarians, expressing concern about the efforts to ban books, particularly those authored by or featuring marginalized groups.
According to the Houston Chronicle, The libraries’ personnel voiced their support for the campaign and the role of libraries in providing diverse perspectives. They underscored the need for inclusive representation and the opportunity for everyone to have access to various ideas.
Nationally, book-banning initiatives have frequently targeted works by and about LGBTQ+ and Black communities. A report by PEN America revealed that 26 percent of books challenged by certain groups during the 2022–2023 academic year contained LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
@harriscountypl You heard the man, HCPL is a Library for Allllllllllll! 🗣️ HCPL is committed to ensuring that all people see themselves and their life experiences reflected on its shelves and in its program. As such, the library is a staunch advocate for Texans’ right to read and defends open and equitable access to information and ideas. Get loud in support of our libraries and their role in providing opportunities, programs, and books for all. Visit hcpl.net/libraryforall to find out more! Thank you to The Obama Foundation for the collab 👏 #LetFreedomRead #freedomtoread #summerreading #libraryforall #bannedbooks #i❤️hcpl #obamafoundation ♬ original sound – HCPL
Today, some of the books that shaped my life—and the lives of so many others—are being challenged by people who disagree with certain ideas or perspectives. And librarians are on the front lines, fighting every day to make the widest possible range of viewpoints, opinions, and… pic.twitter.com/txhCTfH3Gh
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 17, 2023
@kankakeepubliclibrary Reading can transport you to new worlds 📚 #LetFreedomRead #FreedomToRead #SummerReading #KankakeePublicLibrary ♬ original sound