The culture war raging in America today has its roots in… textbooks?
For Hill and others planning a reunion in South Charleston on Saturday, today’s clamor is the fruit from seeds they planted 35 years ago during what’s become known as the Kanawha County Textbook War.
“We were a sleeping giant in the ’70s,” Hill said. “If we’d had the Internet in the ’70s, things would have been different.”
Hill, who recently retired as pastor of a nondenominational church in Florida, was one of the leaders of a protest movement that sprouted in the summer of 1974 over a seemingly routine bit of business: new textbooks being adopted by the Kanawha County Board of Education.
Before it was over, schools had been bombed, coal mines had been idled by strikes and American politics got an early look at a strain of conservative populism that continues today. [...]
The Rev. Jim Lewis was a young Episcopal priest with four children in public schools in 1974. After he spoke out in favor of the new textbooks, he became seen as a clerical counterpoint to the protesters. For a while, he and his family had round-the-clock police protection because of death threats he’d received.
One night, Lewis said, he checked into a hotel room with his family under an assumed name on the advice of police. He went out to buy doughnuts and ran into a reporter from a local newspaper who warned him to get back inside because textbook foes were looking for him.