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Information About Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Company

April 16, 2001
Contact: Patti Embry-Tautenhan
BSMG Worldwide

Toni Morrison and Major Literary Associations Join Leading Authors and Scholars in Opposition to Mitchell Trustsí Efforts to Prevent Book Publication

Toni Morrison, the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Beloved and the first African American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, has added her name to the growing list of authors and scholars who have publicly voiced their opposition to the Mitchell Trusts’ efforts to prohibit the publication of Alice Randall’s book, The Wind Done Gone. Today, she has filed a declaration in the Northern District Court in Atlanta in support of Houghton Mifflin Company and its author. Among the papers previously filed in support of the publication of The Wind Done Gone are letters from Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird; Shelby Foote, noted Civil War historian; Charles R. Johnson, author of Middle Passage, winner of the National Book Award, and other leading writers and academics. Those letters state that " because of the prominence of Gone With the Wind in American culture, we believe that prohibiting the publication of Alice Randall’s book would not be in the public interest."

Randall’s book, written in the form of a diary by a mulatto daughter of a southern planter, is a parody of Gone With the Wind. The Mitchell Trusts have filed a lawsuit against Houghton Mifflin seeking a restraining order and preliminary injunction to block publication.

Today, in addition to Morrison’s declaration, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Freedom to Read Foundation established by the American Library Association, and the PEN American Center have also submitted a brief to the court in opposition to the Mitchell Trusts’ request for a restraining order and preliminary injunction against the book.

Morrison writes, "The Wind Done Gone neither ‘follows’ nor copies nor exploits Gone With the Wind. What Miss Randall’s book does is imagine and occupy narrative spaces and silences never once touched upon nor conceived of in Mrs. Mitchell’s novel…. As to the form and quality of Miss Randall’s novel (as it relates to charges of ‘theft’ and ‘subliteracy’), her book is written in the form of a diary discovered among the papers of a deceased woman--a form with precedents far older than the novel genre. The diary form demands the first-person point of view, completely unlike the narrative voice and point of view of Gone With the Wind. Miss Randall’s prose is by turns evocative, wry, plangent. Her wit is sharp but free of malice. Her gift for lyrical economy is rare…

"Considering the First Amendment rights properly accorded Gone With the Wind, in spite of the pain, humiliation, and outrage its a historical representation has caused African Americans, it seems particularly odd for the Mitchell estate to deny this clever but gentle effort to assuage the damage Gone With the Wind has caused. That it has asked legal redress does not seem to have embarrassed it." She continues, "To crush the artistic rights of an African American writer seems to me not only reckless but arrogant and pathetic."

Morrison’s professional career has focused on literature: for 18 years she worked as an editor, and since 1987 she has been a professor at Princeton University. Morrison is the author of seven novels and numerous essays. In addition to winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pulitzer Prize, she is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

According to Wendy Strothman, executive vice president of Houghton Mifflin, "We are gratified by the widespread affirmation that Alice Randall and Houghton Mifflin have received in response to our position that restriction of publishing a parody violates the First Amendment. We are equally pleased with the high praise that The Wind Done Gone is receiving from the prominent and gifted writers who have read it. We hope that our young and talented writer’s compelling story will be able to reach the public very soon."

Houghton Mifflin is a leading publisher of textbooks, instructional technology, assessments, and other educational materials for elementary and secondary schools and colleges. The company also publishes an extensive line of reference works and fiction and nonfiction for adults and young readers. The company’s Internet site can be found at www.hmco.com.

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Suntrust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin Company Court Papers

Houghton Mifflin Company's Press Statements

Questions and Answers about this dispute
Letter of Support
List of Authors
Biography of Alice Randall

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