Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002

A Brief History of the Grand Old American Tradition of Banning Books

LitHub: “Book banning is a chaotic and illogical business. How a book is received or understood is often subject to the historical moment—and the tastes of individuals. The notion of an objective measure or checklist to decide what is “appropriate”—something far-right school boards have worked to police and enforce—has long been slippery to define. In the late 1930s, the children’s book The Story of Ferdinand, about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight a matador, was interpreted as carrying a pacifist political message. But in a whirl of confusion, it was marked as both pro-Franco and anti-Franco—and also as “communist, anarchist, manic-depressive, and schizoid,” according to an analysis of children’s book censorship in the Elementary School Journal in 1970. In other words, everyone saw what they wanted to see. That also happened to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, a children’s book by William Steig about a donkey who finds a magic pebble and, frightened by a lion, wishes himself into becoming a rock. The book also contained images of police officers dressed as pigs. In 1971, the International Conference of Police Associations took offense at that portrayal of police as pigs—“pig” being a derogatory term for law enforcement officers. Then, as now, some viewed it as problematic and requiring a response. According to the author of the journal article, school librarians who agreed with the police association view of the drawings and “considered [the portrayal] a political statement” pulled the books from their shelves in numerous cities, including Lincoln, Nebraska; Palo Alto, California; Toledo, Ohio; Prince Georges County, Maryland; and several cities in Illinois…”

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.