Court ruling okays censorship
by KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR | May 25, 2001 | Page 11
THE PUBLISHING world is in an uproar over Alice Randall's novel The Wind Done Gone. Randall, an African American, wrote The Wind Done Gone as a parody of Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind.
A U.S. District Court last month ruled that The Wind Done Gone can't be published because it infringes on Gone with the Wind's copyright.
Mitchell's estate is behind the lawsuit that led to the court decision. It claims that The Wind Done Gone is really a sequel to Gone with the Wind, making the estate eligible to collect profits from Randall's sales.
The claim--and the district court's decision--is ridiculous. But Mitchell's estate has a lot at stake. It wants to protect the millions it makes from sales of Gone with the Wind paraphernalia and movie-related tourism in Atlanta.
No doubt, there's also unhappiness with Randall's take on Gone with the Wind, too. The Wind Done Gone is a rebuttal to the racist stereotypes that filled Mitchell's book--and the 1939 Hollywood blockbuster adapted from it.
Gone with the Wind romanticized the "Southern way of life" during slavery. The Civil War that ended slavery is portrayed as an atrocity against the South--for disrupting the lives of the Southern gentry and their slaves.
The Wind Done Gone turns Gone with the Wind on its head. It's told from the perspective of the slaves who lived on Scarlet O'Hara's plantation. Randall's central character is Cynara, the child of O'Hara's father and a slave--making Cynara the half sister of Scarlet.
Mitchell's book depicted slaves as childlike imbeciles who were quite content with their lives on the plantation--and saddened by the outcome of the Civil War. This racist rewriting of history came to life in the caricatures of African American slaves in the Hollywood epic.
But in Randall's book, the slaves are only too happy to be rid of the likes of O'Hara after the Civil War.
Randall has a longer fight on her hands so her novel can see the light of day--against the Mitchell estate that wants to preserve Gone with the Wind's racist mythology. "Once upon a time in America, African Americans were forbidden by law to learn to read and write," Randall said recently. "It saddens me and breaks my heart [that] there are those who would try to set up obstacles for a Black woman to tell her story of her people, with words and writing."