A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich by Loretta Childress | Banned Book Project


A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich paints a realistic portrait of a young boy becoming a drug addict in the inner city of New York, and suggests that there are no simple answers to the problems of addiction, poverty, and crime. Told through a series of short monologues, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich is presented in a “documentary” style. The novel depicts each of the main characters telling his or her story. The approach serves to reinforce the novel’s graphic realism and illustrates the complexity of the problems that it addresses.


Won New York Times Book Review’s Outstanding Books of the Year, 1973.

Won the ALA Coretta Scott King Award honor, 1974.

Won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1975.

Won the Jane Addams Award honor, 1974.

Locations Banned:

Savannah, Georgia, 1973; Island Trees School District, New York, 1976


Anti-Christian, Anti-American, obscene

Court Cases:

Board of Education v. Pico, 1982

In 1982, the Supreme Court heard a case known as the Board of Education, Island Trees School District v. Pico.

In it, seventeen-year-old Steven Pico and four other teens, 14 to 16, challenged the school board’s decision to pull eleven titles from library shelves in 1976, based on a complaint by conservative community group, Parents of New York United.

This group maintained that The Fixer, by Bernard Malamud; Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.; The Naked Ape, by Desmond Morris; Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas; Best Short Stories of Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes; Go Ask Alice, authorship anonymous; Laughing Boy, by Oliver LaFarge; Black Boy, by Richard Wright; A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, by Alice Childress; Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver; and A Reader for Writers, edited by Jerome Archer were objectionable —  many based on the review of excerpts only.

High school senior Steven Pico and his peers filed a lawsuit challenging the board’s ruling that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and won.

According to legal expert Claire Mullally, “The Court recognized that the First Amendment rights of students are ‘directly and sharply implicated’ when a book is removed from a school library. Therefore, the discretion of school boards to remove books from school libraries is limited. The law requires that if a book is to be removed, an inquiry must be made as to the motivation and intention of the party calling for its removal.  If the party’s intention is to deny students access to ideas with which the party disagrees, it is a violation of the First Amendment.” (Stotan, n.d.)


A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but A Sandwich. Encyclopedia.com Accessed January 22, 2018. http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/hero-aint-nothin-sandwich

Campbell, Colin. “Book Banning in America.” The New York Times. December 20, 1981. Accesses January 26, 2018. http://www.nytimes.com/1981/12/20/books/book-banning-in-america.html?pagewanted=all

Dupre, Anne Proffitt. Speaking Up: The Unintended Costs of Free Speech in Public Schools. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Masschuttess, 2009.

Fellion, Matthew, and Inglis, Katherine. Censored: A Literary History of Subversion and Control. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017.

Foerstel, Herbert N. Banned in the U.S.A.: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries. Revised and Expanded Edition. Greenwood Press, Westport Connecticut. 2002.

Raskin, Jamin B. We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and About Students, 3rd Ed. CQ Press, 2008.

Rule, Sheila. “Alice Childress, 77, a Novelist; Drew Themes From Black Life.” The New York Times. August 19, 1994. Accessed January 22, 2018. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/08/19/obituaries/alice-childress-77-a-novelist-drew-themes-from-black-life.html

Schultz, David. Encyclopedia of American Law. “Library book banning,” pg. 285. Facts on File, Inc., 2002.

Stotan, Chris. “Five Teens Win the Right to Read: Island Trees School District vs. Pico.” Author & Loudmouth. No date. Accessed January 26, 2018. http://www.chriscrutcher.com/teens-can-stop-censors.html



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