Robert Knight

As a school board member in Kanawha County, West Virginia in the early 1970s, Alice Moore ignited what might be considered the opening battle of America’s culture war in education.

Mrs. Moore challenged the board’s choice of textbooks and supplementary materials, touching off a yearlong protest that riveted the nation in 1974. Among other things, it alerted parents that the educational establishment was not only anti-Christian but aggressively so. The uprising presaged today’s Tea Party revolt against overbearing government.

Thousands took to the streets, miners went on strike, and several unoccupied schools were bombed. One person was critically hurt when shot by a man who opposed the book protesters. A pastor who led the protests, Marvin Horan, was convicted on one count of conspiracy and spent three years in prison, denying he had anything to do with violence. The Ku Klux Klan crashed the party, and book protesters spent much effort distancing themselves.

“The Great Textbook War,” a radio documentary by former Kanawha County resident Trey Kay, won a Peabody Award in 2009 for its “thoughtful, balanced” approach to the conflict as well as an Edward R. Murrow Award in 2010. Several books have been written about the topic, including Protester Voices: The 1974 Textbook Tea Party, by Karl C. Priest, who taught for 34 years in West Virginia schools.

On Oct. 7, Mrs. Moore received the Dr. Robert Dreyfus Courageous Christian Leadership Award from South Carolina-based Frontline Ministries and the Exodus Mandate Project, which encourages parents to homeschool their children or put them in Christian schools. Dreyfus is a longtime homeschooling proponent.

“We see this as one of the first shots in the culture war, after Phyllis Schlafly’s defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment,” said E. Ray Moore, president of both groups. “What’s happening today had its beginnings in the Great Textbook War of Kanawha County. It’s time that Alice Moore was recognized for her courage.”

The media and leftist groups called Mrs. Moore, some pastors, teachers, and parents “book burners” and “racists.” It didn’t matter that Mrs. Moore’s mentor in the challenge was Arizona’s black state school board president, Stephen S. Jenkins, who alerted her to the leftist agenda behind multiculturalism, and that some books portrayed blacks in extremely negative ways.

Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.