‘The Color Purple’ banned in Orange County public schools months before movie remake

When Alice Walker published “The Color Purple” in 1982, it quickly attracted acclaim as well as controversy. 

It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1982, and Walker became the first African American to win the coveted award. Its depictions of sexual abuse and violence drew some criticism as well. 

The book landed on many high school English reading lists, recommended by the National Council of Teachers of English. It was made into a movie that earned 11 Academy Award nominations, a Broadway musical and, most recently, a film adaptation of the musical.

Despite its success on different artistic platforms, the controversy has returned to Florida amid a wave of book bans in various school districts around the state.

(Courtesy of @that_bookish_life on Instagram)

The movie was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association, which rates films based on what ages they are appropriate for. 

The Florida book removal in Orange County, which includes Orlando, is the result of legislation approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis and passed by the Florida Legislature last year. 

This bill regulates specific terminology and instruction related to health and reproductive education and limits classroom curriculum and/or studies about gender identity and sexual orientation. 

As a result of the bill, 673 books were removed from classrooms in Orange County Public Schools and about 3,000 books were removed from classrooms statewide — including some in South Florida.

The original book cover design and the recent film adaptation cover design. (Courtesy of @lexread10
on Instagram)

In Broward County and Miami-Dade public schools, about 17 different books were banned in total. While “The Color Purple” was not one of them, “The Hill We Climb,” poet Amanda Gorman’s spoken word composition which she read at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration, was.

What’s so explicit about “The Color Purple?” The book touches on religious objections, homosexuality, violence, African history, rape, and has explicit language and some sexual scenes. However, many believe higher level students should have access to it. 

“Even when they’re talking about the sexual content of these books, they’re being read by higher level students,” said Judi Hayes, an author and Orange County parent, in a Spectrum News interview. “These are kids that are sometimes 18 years old.” 

Orange County school officials have said that some of the removed books could be returned to school libraries after a second review. There is still no timeline for the review process.

Christina Harris is a junior majoring in digital journalism with a minor in English. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field dealing with television.