I’ve written in the past about creationist threats of violence, so this might be an good time to revisit the Kanawha Textbook craziness. I’m always surprised by how few people know about this. There’s a page on Wikipedia, although it’s a pretty mild description of what really happened.

In March 1974, the English Textbook Committee of Kanawha County, West Virginia chose two textbooks that made a new board member flip out. She said they were “filthy, trashy, disgusting, one-sidedly in favor of blacks, and unpatriotic”. It did not help that the books “promoted a climate of belief in evolution.”*

She was overruled on the book choice, and then everyone lost their minds. To quote from a Charleston Newspaper story:

School buses are riddled with sniper bullets, gas lines are cut, windshields broken, and bomb threats disrupt schools daily. Students, parents, custodians, secretaries, bus drivers, teachers, board members, judges, and law enforcement officers continue to receive personal threats of all kinds. …..One minister has prayed publicly for the deaths of three board members. Workers have been shot and their cars destroyed when crossing picket lines.

Oh, and the Klan got involved too. The Klan wasn’t doing all of this though; it was God-Fearin’ Christians:

On 9th October West Branch Elementary School was dynamited and Midway Elementary School in Campbell’s Creek was firebombed and then dynamited.

On 11th October Molotov cocktails were thrown at Chandler Elementary School and on 14th October Loudendale Elementary School was firebombed.

The School Board narrowly missed being assassinated when 15 dynamite sticks went off by the gas meter of the building they were in minutes after they had left.

One of the bombers testified later that he and others had considered “… bombing carloads of children as a way to stop people that was sending their kids to school, letting them learn out of books they knew was wrong”….on the 12th November a school bus was hit with a shotgun blast. (–quoted from ‘Godless Books’)

The Gablers also got involved, and a relatively newly-founded Heritage Foundation.While evolution was not the primary issue for the chaos, many scholars point to Kanawha as the beginning of the fundamentalist war against secularism.

I marked this post as a “WTF” because the story is just so mindboggling. The part I find the most amazing, though, each time I revisit this history, is this one:

“Among other complaints was the use of open-ended questions to encourage independent thought and analysis. “Parents….contended ….that students should not be asked what they think or how they should behave; they should be told what to think and how to behave”

Additional resources:

*The Creationist Movement in Modern America. Eve & Harrold 1991. (print resource)

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Egad. I was looking for the title of a book I used to have about Kanawha, and found this from 2000:


  2. Check out the latest turn in the textbook story

    Texas State Ed creationists basically declaring defeat in the overt attempts to teach ID or even “the controversy” in favor of basically pushing tectbooks to include creationist arguments without the fanfare of doing so.

  3. Since I live in Texas and we just hired Christ’s righthand man to run our school system, I am counting the days until I get to sit down and explain in a frank and clear way to my children that what they are being taught in school is a lie. Abstinence only education, ID “science” and who knows what other crazy shit they’ll come up with.

    I wonder, though, if I brought copies of the Anarchist’s Cookbook to a school board meeting to suggest we teach it along side the chemistry textbooks, if I could wedge that in there considering how many of God’s people have referenced this holy instructional manual?

  4. Wow.

    …and you’re right, that last bit somehow is the most incredible. In a way, I’ve kinda become inured to stories of religious violence; most of them are predictable rehashes of the same old, ugly tale. It is unusual, however, to hear anyone — even fundamentalists — so openly admit that reason and independent thought are their enemies.

    (Then again, maybe I’m just naive. I’ve lived in the west my entire life, and fundamentalism doesn’t flourish here in the way it seems to in the south.)

  5. Thanks for the post. Where are my asprin? :(

  6. Ditch Lily, I wasn’t able to rescue your comments from the spam filter–Wordpress had a problem last week.
    Even though I marked it as not spam, it still deleted it :(

    It’s nothing personal!

  7. The “Biblical values” that these creeps follow must come from 1 Samuel 18:

    18:6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.

    18:7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.

    18:8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?

    18:9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.

  8. “Parents….contended ….that students should not be asked what they think or how they should behave; they should be told what to think and how to behave”

    After all … look how well it worked with them.

  9. “Parents….contended ….that students should not be asked what they think or how they should behave; they should be told what to think and how to behave”

    Distasteful indeed, but why are you amazed? As far as I can remember, the only real purpose of the 8 years of hell they call grade school was to turn us into good, obedient citizens, totally broken of such unfortunate habits as asking questions, thinking, and expecting fairness.

  10. […] top this off, here is a list of death threats to evolutionary biologists from presumed […]

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