Banned Book Week was established in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to read and to draw attention to problem of censorship. Every year during the last week of September libraries and bookstores nationwide honor this event. Intellectual freedom is at the heart of Banned Book Week and a commitment to preserve it is its purpose. Censorship has been the enemy of intellectual freedom throughout history and continues to threaten it. Since 1982 11,000 books have been challenged. In 2010, there were 348 challenges to books reported to Office of Intellectual Freedom according to the American Library Association.
Books are censored for a variety of reasons—political, religious, moral—and by a variety of people. Usually books are banned with the intention of protecting others, most often children, from difficult ideas and information. However, whether or not censorship comes with good intentions, it is dangerous to intellectual freedom and a violation of the First Amendment. In considering censorship and the First Amendment it would be wise to keep in mind these words from Noam Chomsky: “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.”
The books on display represent scope and significance of the problem of censorship. All of the books on display have extraordinary historical and literary significance and all have been banned. Some have been banned for political purposes (All Quiet on the Western Front, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, The Metamorphosis, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and The Pentagon Papers); others have been banned for religious reasons (The Satanic Verses and Uncle Tom’s Cabin); and more for vague moral reasons, usually “obscenity” (Candide, The Catcher in the Rye, The Decameron, Lolita, and Ulysses). Should the motivators of censorship have had their way the loss of these materials—and many more not on display—would truly be a loss for humanity.
(Text by Research Assistant, Lee Barber)