Barnes & Noble has canceled its Black History Month plans to re-release classic novels with cover art depicting characters as people of color, following online criticism. TBWIA\Chiat\Day
“There are so many ways to get this right, they had to lookfor a way to get this wrong.”
That’s author L.L. McKinney’s response to Barnes & Noble’s “Diverse Editions” campaign. McKinney’s most recent book, A Dream So Dark, is a sequel to A Blade So Black, a contemporary retelling of Alice in Wonderland with a black female lead.
The bookselling chain announced this month that they were going to release classic books with new covers that reimagined protagonists as characters of color. These included Frankenstein, Peter Pan and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among others — almost all books by white authors, about characters presumed to be white.
Black authors took to Twitter to express their criticism of the project, many of them, including McKinney, calling it “literary blackface.”
Barnes & Noble released a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, the day the book covers were supposed to be displayed at their Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan, saying they were no longer going forward with the campaign.
In the statement, the chain said “it was a project inspired by outwork with schools and was created in part to raise awareness and discussion during Black History Month, in which Barnes & Noble stores nationally will continue to highlight a wide selection of books to celebrate black history and great literature from writers of color.”
But what was supposed to be a celebration of diversity to kick off Black History Month turned into a moment where black writers weren’t actually part of that celebration.