LeVar Burton continues to speak out against book censorship. On Wednesday, Burton delivered his opening remarks at the 74th National Book Awards & Benefit Dinner in New York City. Burton specifically called out Moms for Liberty, the conservative organization that’s attempting to censor books in schools.
“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 told the audience, People reported.
Moms for Liberty has been leading an effort to block schools from providing books about sexuality and gender in their libraries, according to People. The organization is also aiming to ban LGBTQ+ and race discussions from being included in school curriculums.
Burton hosted the event, recognizing outstanding people and works in the literature industry. Drew Barrymore was initially chosen as host of this year’s event. However, the actress was replaced when she faced public backlash after deciding to keep her talk show going during the SAG-AFTRA strike.
Burton has received numerous accolades for his contribution to literature. Among his many honors, the former Reading Rainbow host was named the 2023 honorary chair of Banned Books Week. As he spoke out against the effort to ban certain books from schools, Burton said freedom “feels especially fraught in this global political moment.”
“On the home front, we are fighting for control of truth and how we interpret truth in this country,” Burton said. “Books are being banned, words are being silenced, and writers and others who champion books are under attack.”
Burton also paid tribute to his mother, an English teacher. The beloved TV personality said his mother taught him that “if you can read in at least one language, you are, by her definition, free.”
Giving credit to his sister Letitia as well, Burton said she was the one who taught him how to read. The Roots actor urged the audience to remember that “books are under attack” because they’re so powerful.
“Stories are the tool that enable us to better understand ourselves and, yes, our history,” he said. “To live over the course of a few pages in the experiences of another and to create a world where we can all be free.”
The 2023 National Book Awards ceremony also featured Oprah Winfrey, who appeared as a special guest and spoke out to support literacy. The event included virtual appearances from Julie Andrews, Matthew McConaughey, Samin Nosrat, Trevor Noah and Dua Lipa. The celebrities introduced the various literature categories that were recognized on the evening.