AUSTIN (KXAN) — Conversations surrounding banned and challenged books hosted in public and school libraries have amplified in recent years, with Texas leading the way nationally with the highest number of banned titles. Now, a display at South by Southwest Conference & Festivals is highlighting the historical context of book banning nationwide, as well as states seeing the largest volume of books pulled from shelves.

The Banned Book Library is an interactive exhibit created by the Zinn Education Project, the African American Policy Forum and Lush Cosmetics. It included a historic timeline of segregation, denied literacy rights for non-white people as well as some specific titles that have faced a heightened level of pushback.

Here in Texas, the issue gained significant momentum in October 2021, when the Texas Tribune reported Texas Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, had compiled a list of more than 800 books flagged for “inappropriate” content. Gov. Greg Abbott carried the issue forward in November 2021 when he sent a letter to the Texas Association of School Boards, denouncing a slew of titles he said promoted “pornographic or obscene material to students.”

A 2022 report by PEN America found Texas has banned more books than any other state in the country. Citing PEN America data, the SXSW exhibit reported the Top 5 states for banned books in public and school libraries:

  • Texas: 801
  • Florida: 566
  • Pennsylvania: 457
  • Tennessee: 349
  • Oklahoma: 42

Of those titles, the exhibit said 75% were fiction books; 49% of them where categorized as young adult books; 41% included LGBTQ+ characters, storylines or references; 19% of them were picture books; 9% were biographies or memoirs; and 4% of them pertained to books about religious minorities.

Per PEN, nearly 142 districts across 32 states had banned more than 2,500 books throughout the 2021-22 school year. Examples of titles challenged included “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.