News (USA)

100-year-old WWII widow blasts book bans in fiery speech

100-year-old Grace Linn speaks before Florida school board and shows off her quilt of banned books
Photo: Screenshot

It took just a few minutes for 100-year-old Grace Linn to eviscerate anyone seeking to ban books from schools.

Speaking in front of 500 people at Florida’s Martin County School Board, Linn was among the hordes of concerned citizens protesting the removal of approximately 80 books from public school libraries based on the complaints of one parent, according to Advocate.

After introducing herself as “a hundred years young,” Linn spoke about her husband, Robert Nicoll, who was killed in World War II.

“He was only 26,” she said, “defending our democracy, Constitution, and freedoms.”

According to the Daily Beast, Linn was seven months pregnant when Nicoll was first declared missing in action. She found out he had died when their daughter, Nicci, was three days old.

She then compared the book banning taking place in her district to Nazi actions.

“One of the freedoms that the Nazis crushed was the freedom to read the books they banned. They stopped the free press, banned and burned books. The freedom to read, which is protected by the First Amendment, is our essential right and duty of our democracy. Even so, it is continually under attack by both the public and private groups who think they hold the truth.”

Someone behind Linn then unfurled a large yellow quilt depicting dozens of commonly banned books, such as This Book is Gay, Lawn Boy, 1984, Maus, and The Color Purple.

“In response to the book banning throughout our country and Martin County last year—during the time I was 99—I have created this quilt,” Linn explained, “to remind all of us that these few of so many more books that are banned or targeted need to be proudly displayed and protected, and read if you choose to.”

Amongst the books on the quilt, Linn also added symbols of progressive values, including a Pride Flag and a frame with the words “Love is Love.”

“Banned books and burning books are the same,” she said. “Both are done for the same reason: fear of knowledge. Fear is not freedom. Fear is not liberty. Fear is control. My husband died as a father of freedom”

“I am a mother of liberty. Banned books need to be proudly displayed and protected from school boards like this.”

At that, those in the audience loudly applauded.

Linn later told the Daily Beast that a teary-eyed man approached her after her speech.

“He said, ‘I have to thank you… My grandmother was 11 years old when she ran away, got out of Auschwitz. And all my other relatives did die, but without her getting out, I wouldn’t be here.”‘

She continued, “So I said, ‘I am so happy you are here.’”

Linn also said she has no plans to stop fighting book bans.

“I always feel that it’s my duty. When history is forgotten or not used and not allowed to be used, history will repeat itself and we had enough of that during the Naziism that occurred in Germany.”

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