Levar Burton

LeVar Burton Calls Out Moms For Liberty At National Book Awards Over Book Bans. Group Fires Back

Burton’s lighthearted remarks simultaneously elicited celebrations from the crowd, laughter from Black Twitter, and outrage from Moms For Liberty.

While hosting the 74th National Book Awards on Nov. 16, LeVar Burton made what he probably thought was a slick joke directed at the Moms For Liberty, which was classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its opposition to LGBTQ+ and racially inclusive school curricula. Burton addressed the crowd as he was about to begin his opening remarks at the event by saying, “Before we get going, are there any Moms for Liberty in the house? Moms for Liberty? No? Good. Then hands will not need to be thrown tonight.”

Burton’s lighthearted remarks simultaneously elicited celebrations from the crowd, laughter from Black Twitter, as well as outrage from Moms For Liberty. According to Fox News, the group responded via a post to their Twitter/X account, saying “American moms weep as a childhood favorite, Reading Rainbow, calls for physical attacks against us because we are protecting the innocence of our children. LeVar Burton, why have you sunk so low? Threatening physical violence against women?”

Tiffany Justice, the co-founder of the group, told Fox News, “It is truly disheartening that somebody who has been so influential in the lives of children can stoop so low as to threaten their mothers. What are people like LeVar Burton trying to hide from us that it must come to physical violence to protect their agenda? We will not be deterred, we will continue to fight for our children at every step.”

Moms For Liberty has been at the center of book bans all over the country, despite Justice’s claims to Newsweek that the group is not concerned with banning books. Moms For Liberty has been busy making sure school boards have their candidates on them. According to The Week, in 2022, roughly half of the 250 candidates the group endorsed won their elections. PEN America also claimed in 2022 that Moms For Liberty is one of several groups that have created an environment that has made book bans incredibly expansive. Though they seemingly couch their efforts as an attempt to protect children, members of the group in Tennessee also made headlines for pushing to ban books about Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges, who was recently inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. 

The National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards, issued a statement ahead of the ceremony, which seemed to recognize that not everyone would be pleased with what their award winners (or host) would say during the course of the evening’s events.

The third paragraph read: “Political statements, if made, are by no means unprecedented in the history of the National Book Awards, or indeed any awards ceremony. We are working with the venue to ensure a safe environment for all our guests. We of course hope that everyone attending the National Book Awards, in person or tuning in online, comes in a spirit of understanding, compassion, and humanity—the very things that the books we love inspire.”

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