Kanawha County Textbook War and How It All Started For Me

Forty five years ago this year an event occurred in Kanawha County, West Virginia that seems to have had more far-reaching ramifications than many of us who became involved in it could have imagined at that time. All I can say is thank the Lord for those who possess a historical perspective that far outdistances mine.

Back in 2004, on the 30th anniversary of this event, I wrote an article called The Thirty Years War which was posted on a website that has long since become extinct. This dealt with the Kanawha County, West Virginia Textbook Protest (war). Actually, I guess the term “war” would be more appropriate, as the politically correct cultural Marxists of that day had declared war on the mostly Christian culture of West Virginia and upon that culture’s children, via the government schools. Their weapon of choice was the textbooks for Kanawha County’s government (public) schools. When the parents of the children in those schools saw what was in those textbooks they rebelled. The story of that rebellion has been pretty much buried in our day. The government school bureaucracy and the always Leftist mainstream media wanted to make sure as few as possible heard about or even remembered this event and so the Leftists have sought to shove it down the memory hole as far as they could. Where they have not been successful in that, they have tried to paint the textbook protesters in the worst possible light. Although most have forgotten, some remember, and those who remember will not let this history be forgotten.

In the summer of 1974 the school board in Kanawha County chose a set of textbooks that were to go into the county schools in the upcoming school year (74-75). There was some pretty raunchy stuff in many of those textbooks, even by today’s loose standards, and one lady on the school board, Alice Moore, really had some problems with what was to be foisted off on the kids in the next school year in the name of “quality education.” She started trying to make parents aware of this material, which alerted parents to the war being declared on them and their children by the nation’s educational establishment. So you see, the parents and book protesters did not start this war–all they did was respond to the cultural war being declared on them.

Several ministers soon stepped forward to lead the protest, which was only fitting for West Virginia. Others remained quiet when they, too, should have spoken up.

The textbook protesters, in order to keep the questionable books out of the public schools, did several things. They bought an add in the Charleston newspaper (which was against the protesters from the beginning) so the public at large would be aware of what was about to be put into the schools under the guise of education. Then they did a novel thing. They picketed all the government schools in the Kanawha Velley. West Virginia was a union state, what with the coal mines there and all, and so not too many people would cross a picket line. What this accomplished was to basically shut down the government school system there. Almost no one would cross the picket lines, either to go to school or to deliver supplies, or for any normal reason. And the picket lines did shut down the schools to all intents and purposes–for several weeks. Some government schools which normally had hundreds of students on a daily basis wound up with maybe four or five students.

There were a couple big protest parades in Charleston, with literally thousands of parents marching and carrying signs protesting what the government schools were trying to do to their children. You folks that are still under the impression that government schools actually try to educate kids should take note of this history.

All of this was bad news for the government school system. the whole situation became so explosive that the national media found that it had to report something about it, lest people outside of Kanawha County begin to hear about it and wonder where the “news media” was all this time. And this was starting to happen! As they were finally forced to deal with this, the “unbiased” news media took great pains to paint the protesters with the blackest possible brush. It sought to portray them all as bomb-throwing anarchists and overt racists. After all, if you were opposed to textbook porn you had to be a racist, right? Admittedly, a handful of such types did show up, probably sent in to muddy the water, but they in no way reflected the genuine concerns of the vast majority of the parents who just didn’t want their kids brainwashed instead of educated.

I recall the first article I read about the protest in the Chicago Sun Times in late September of 1974. My wife and I had just gotten back from a trip to Oklahoma when I read the article, which was so blatantly biased against the protesters that I said to my wife: “Those protesters in West Virginia must be doing something right.” Little did I know at that point that, in a year’s time, my family and I would be in West Virginia.

At one point during the protest the protesters had the government educrats over a barrel–until the educrats rather grudgingly admitted that there might possibly be some minor problems with some of the textbooks–and they had a way to solve that thorny problem. They promised to have all the books reviewed–if the protesters would just get off their backs and give them a month’s moratorium to get the review done. Do you begin to see where this was going? The government school educrats understood the nature of their adversaries much better than the protesters understood the devious nature of theirs. The protesters agreed to the moratorium. Big mistake! The month came and went and at the end of that time the school board announced that the books had been reviewed and there was really no problem with them at all–it was all the protesters’ imagination–and back into the government schools went the raunchy textbooks!

South Charleston Junior High School, 1958. Kanawha County Schools Collection

Oh, there was a good bit of complaining, but, in giving the educational establishment their month’s moratorium they had ceded to them the tactical advantage. They had given the situation time to cool down for their supporters, and the initial ardor of many of the protesters died away. A great many of them put their kids back into the public schools and all their efforts seemed to be for naught. There were some, however, that, thankfully, refused to do this and several new Christian schools were started in the Kanawha Valley, so I guess you have to say that the protest was not without some success. But it wasn’t by any means the success it could have been. The media sought to bury it, as did the educrats at all levels, although at times they have sought to resurrect it in order to further cast aspersions at the protesters over and above what we could see at the time.

The protest limped along for another several months, with protest leaders planning several events in an attempt to rekindle the fires of protest, but, to all intents and purposes, it was finished when the protesters agreed to the moratorium, and the educational establishment understood that.

This kind of protest is hard to sustain indefinitely. People need to get on with their lives and you can only do so much for so long. The educational establishment made their living brainwashing America’s kids–they could go on forever because the taxpayers footed the bill for what they did. Most honest folks have to go back to earning a paycheck.

The vast majority of Christians, home schoolers, and patriots hardly even recall this event anymore, when it should be remembered as an important part of their history–a major incident, among others, to demonstrate to them what they are standing for–and against!

When we first got involved in the protest I thought I’d like to write a book about it. At that point, I was just not up to that task. After awhile I realized that fact and gave it up.

However, decades later, someone did write a book about it, and when that book came out, I had the privilege of buying the first copy. The author, Karl C. Priest, was also part of the protest and so he knew whereof he spoke. His book Protester Voices–the 1974 Textbook Tea Party should be in the library of every family with youngsters in Christian schools or who are being home schooled. This is part of your history. It helps to define why parents do what they do regarding their childrens’ education and it gives you an up-close look at what the government school system is really all about and, baby, it ain’t real education!

The original hard copy of the book can be purchased from Amazon for $2.00 (plus postage) and the 2019 updated edition can be found on Kindle for $1.99.

March 17, 2019

~ The Author ~
Al Benson Jr. is the editor and publisher of “The Copperhead Chronicle“, a quarterly newsletter that presents history from a pro-Southern and Christian perspective. He has written for several publications over the years. His articles have appeared in “The National Educator,” “The Free Magnolia,” and the “Southern Patriot.” I addition to that he was the editor of, and wrote for, “The Christian Educator” for several years. In addition to The Copperhead Chronicles, Al also maintains Revised History.

He is currently a member of the Confederate Society of America and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and has, in the past, been a member of the John Birch Society. He is the co-author, along with Walter D. Kennedy, of the book “Lincoln’s Marxists” and he has written for several Internet sites as well as authoring a series of booklets, with tests, dealing with the War of Northern Aggression, for home school students.

He and his wife now live in northern Louisiana.

Mr. Benson is a highly respected scholar and writer and has graciously allowed Metropolis Café to publish his works. We are proud to have his involvement with this project.

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