Miami Historian Challenges Ban, will be sharing Banned Books at New Overtown Garden

Over the previous month, historian Marvin Dunn could be spotted working in a garden. Checking the soil. Planting produce. Watering the flowers.

And now he’s ready to share the rewards of his labor.

The “Teach the Truth” garden in Overtown will officially open at noon on February 3 as part of Dunn’s ongoing efforts to educate Floridians. Saturday’s opening will also include a banned book giveaway, in which residents can receive free books that state legislators have considered “harmful.”

“This garden has two goals,” the emeritus professor at Florida International University said in a statement. “The first is to give away books that have been recently banned in Florida schools, and the second is to grow healthy produce to be given away to neighborhood residents.”

Dunn got the idea for the garden after noticing how many vacant lots there were in Overtown.

“Why allow vacant lots in Overtown to sit vacant?” Dunn informed. “Why not put them to useful purpose for the community?”

Miami Historian Challenges Ban, will be sharing Banned Books at New Overtown Garden

The garden, which spans a quarter of a city block at Northwest 3rd Avenue and 9th Street, includes collard greens, tomatoes, parsley, and roses. The majority of the product will be handed to residents, with some sold to fund upkeep costs.

Although Dunn recently traded his pen for garden sheers, the book giveaway will be a major part of Saturday’s festivities. More than 3300 books were banned during the 2022-23 school year, according to PEN America, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting free expression.

Florida school districts accounted for over 1,400 book bans, the most in the US and more than twice that of Texas, the next closest.

The majority of the book bans are linked to House Bill 7, a 2022 law that, among other things, restricts lessons that will make students “feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin.”

“Education is about the pursuit of truth, not woke indoctrination,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz Jr. stated in March 2023. “Under Governor DeSantis, Florida is committed to rigorous academic content and high standards so that students learn how to think and receive the tools necessary to go forth and make great decisions.”

Some of the books that will be given away are Tony Medina’s “Love to Langston,” Rio Cortez’s “The ABCs of Black History,” and Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” which was read at President Biden’s inauguration.

“What Florida has done is ban the idea of institutional racism,” Dunn went on to say. “In banning ideas, the books were banned.”

This is only the latest move in Dunn’s “Teach the Truth” campaign, which seeks to help Florida deal with its racial history. In 2023, he began leading “Teach the Truth” trips that visited Rosewood, Mims, and other sites of racial atrocities throughout the state.

IF YOU GO: “Teach the Truth” Garden opening and prohibited book giveaway.

WHEN: 12–5 p.m. Saturday, February 3, 2024.

WHERE: Northwest 3rd Avenue and 9th Street, Miami, Florida 33136.

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