Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Freedom to Read: The history of ALA's vital statement on intellectual freedom

March 15, 2016

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (left) and Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey at the Dartmouth College commencement, June 14, 1953. Courtesy of Dartmouth College Library   

“Don’t join the book burners,” President Dwight D. Eisenhower implored Dartmouth College graduates on June 14, 1953. “Don’t be afraid to go to your library and read every book as long as any document does not offend your own ideas of decency.”

Eisenhower’s words shocked many because they constituted his first public challenge to McCarthyism—an ethos enveloping the country at the time and fed by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), who inferred communist conspiracies everywhere in American culture, including books on the shelves of 194 information libraries that the US State Department operated in 61 foreign countries.

Like-minded individuals also saw communist threats in the images on the covers of magazines, paperbacks, and comics that were stacked face-out on newsstand racks across the country. The US House of Representatives even set up a Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials to investigate the publishers. Outside Washington, the National Organization for Decent Literature (NODL) sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church issued monthly lists of condemned titles that local parishioners used to police newsstands (and, on occasion, local public library shelves). Owners who passed muster received NODL seals of approval to display in their windows; sales at newsstands that did not display a seal invariably suffered. Read more...

No comments:

Post a Comment