Part 2: Bannings and Burnings in History

Hi Everyone!

This is the remainder of the long selective list I found by Freedom to Read. It’s amazing the reasons for banning or destroying writings.

Bannings and Burnings in History

Some of the most controversial books in history are now regarded as classics. The Bible and works by Shakespeare are among those that have been banned over the past two thousand years. Here is [part two of] a selective timeline of book bannings, burnings, and other censorship activities.

1960: D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the subject of a trial in England, in which Penguin Books was prosecuted for publishing an obscene book. During the proceedings, the prosecutor asked: “Is it a book you would wish your wife or servant to read?” Penguin won the case, and the book was allowed to be sold in England. A year earlier, the U.S. Post Office had declared the novel obscene and non-mailable. But a federal judge overturned the Post Office’s decision and questioned the right of the postmaster general to decide what was or was not obscene.

1970: White Niggers of America, a political tract about Quebec politics and society, was written by Pierre Vallières while he was in jail. The book was confiscated when the writer was accused of sedition, and an edition published in France was not allowed into Canada. A U.S. edition was published in English in 1971.

1973: The school board in Drake, North Dakota, ordered the burning of 32 copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and 60 copies of James Dickey’s Deliverance for, respectively, the use of profanity and references to homosexuality.

1974: The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence revealed some of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s dirty tricks and failures overseas and in the United States. The authors (Victor Marchetti, a former senior analyst for the CIA, and John D. Marks, a former U.S. State Department official) were told by a U.S. court to submit their manuscript to the CIA before the book was published. The CIA demanded the removal of 339 passages from the text, but eventually the publisher won the right to retain 171 of those in the first edition of the book. By 1980, the publisher had won the legal right to publish 25 more passages, but the most recent edition (1989) still indicated numerous censored passages.

1977: Maurice Sendak’s picture book In the Night Kitchen was removed from the Norridge, Illinois, school library because of “nudity to no purpose.” The book was expurgated elsewhere when shorts were drawn on the nude boy.

1977: Decent Interval, a memoir written by a former CIA employee, criticized the CIA, Henry Kissinger, and U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Author Frank Snepp succeeded in getting his book published before the CIA knew about it, but the government filed a lawsuit against him, even though no classified information appeared in the book. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Snepp; the government seized all profits from the book and imposed a lifelong gag order on the author. Snepp was required to submit everything he might write—fiction, screenplays, non-fiction, poetry—to the CIA for review. The CIA won the right to cut any classified or classifiable information within 30 days of receipt of Snepp’s work.

1983: Members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee called for the rejection of The Diary of Anne Frank because it was “a real downer.” It was also challenged for offensive references to sexuality.

1987: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou was removed from the required reading list for Wake County, North Carolina, high school students because of a scene in which the author, at the age of seven and a half, is raped.

1987: After retiring from 20 years’ service with Britain’s MI5 counterintelligence agency, Peter Wright moved to Australia and wrote his autobiography, entitled Spycatcher, in which he accused British security services of trying to topple Harold Wilson’s 1974–76 Labour government. The book, a best-seller, was banned in Britain, and the British government waged a lengthy and expensive legal battle to prevent its publication in Australia. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that if Wright ever returned to Britain, he would be prosecuted for breaching the country’s Official Secrets Act. But when Wright died in 1995, he got the last laugh, since his ashes were scattered over the waters of the Blackwater Sailing Club in southern England.

1988: Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, which some critics said blasphemed Islam, was burned repeatedly by Muslims in the United Kingdom. In October, India—a majority Hindu nation which has a minority Muslim population—became the first of several countries in the world to ban the novel. (In 2012, Indian writers called for the ban’s repeal.) The Republic of South Africa also banned the novel in 1988, although the government lifted this ban in 2002.

1992: In August, during the Bosnian war, Serbian troops shelled the National Library in Sarajevo. They destroyed between 1.5 million and 3 million volumes. It was one of the worst book burnings in modern history. Soldiers shot at anyone who tried to save the books.

1997: In Ireland, a government censorship board banned at least 24 books and 90 periodicals.

1998: In Kenya, the government banned 30 books and publications for “sedition and immorality,” including The Quotations of Chairman Mao and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.

1998: American publishers expressed outrage over news that a Washington bookstore was ordered to turn over records of Monica Lewinsky’s book purchases to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Lewinsky is the former White House intern with whom President Clinton had what he later termed an “inappropriate relationship.” The Association of American Publishers
declared: “I don’t think the American people could find anything more alien to our way of life or repugnant to the Bill of Rights than government intrusion into what we think and what we read. I would suggest Mr. Starr give some thought to his own reading list. Maybe it’s time for him to re-read the First Amendment.”

2001: The U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, passed by the American Congress in response to terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, gave the FBI power to collect information about the library borrowings of any U.S. citizen. The act also empowered the federal agency to gain access to library patrons’ log-ons to Internet Web sites—and protected the FBI from disclosing the identities of individuals being investigated.

2010: In India, nationalist students burned copies of Such a Long Journey, Rohinton Mistry’s acclaimed novel, at the gates of the University of Mumbai. The students also pressed the university to stop teaching the book. Aditya Thackeray, the students’ leader, said he objected to the “obscene and vulgar language” in the novel and to negative references to India’s nationalist
politicians, including his grandfather. The university quickly dropped the novel from the syllabus.

2010: The U.S. Department of Defense bought and destroyed the entire first printing—9,500 copies—of Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer’s Operation Dark Heart. The book focused on the war in Afghanistan. Even though Shaffer had worked closely with military officials when he was writing the manuscript, some feared that the book would reveal military secrets. Shaffer’s
publisher, St. Martin’s Press, did release a second printing, but it featured cuts and changes that the U.S. Department of Defense had ordered.

2011: In June, Canadian author Lawrence Hill received an email from a man in the Netherlands who said that he and others planned to burn Hill’s novel The Book of Negroes because they objected to the N-word in the title. On June 22, they burned copies of the book’s cover in Amsterdam. Two years later, Hill published another work: Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book:
An Anatomy of a Book Burning.

2012: In May, Irshad Manji—a reform-minded Muslim—toured Malaysia to promote her book Allah, Liberty and Love. In Kuala Lumpur, government officials raided bookstores to confiscate copies of the book. Then, after receiving a critical report from the Department of Islamic Development, Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs banned the book. Manji protested the ban, and her Malaysian publisher challenged the ban in court.

2012: In the United States, people demanded the removal of Toni Morrison’s Beloved from public library shelves. Complainants claimed the novel was sexually explicit, and they objected to depictions of violence and the novel’s religious viewpoint, reported the American Library Association (ALA). The novel, which was published in 1987, explores the destructive legacy of slavery in 19th-century America. The ALA also reported that Morrison’s novel was the 26th most frequently challenged book from 2000 to 2009 and the 45th most frequently challenged book from 1990 to 1999 in U.S. public libraries.

2013: Islamist insurgents in the African nation of Mali set fire to a library in Timbuktu and incinerated 4,000 ancient manuscripts. The damage would have been worse, but a quick-thinking librarian had organized the removal of hundreds of thousands of manuscripts to safety.

2013: In Pakistan, spokesmen for organizations that represent the nation’s private schools announced bans on I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. In November, Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said that a ban was in force in the libraries of 40,000 affiliated schools. Kashif Mirza, chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, said a ban was in force in its affiliated schools. Senior education officials said the book—which was co-authored by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb—showed insufficient respect for Islam.

2016: In northern Russia, the Vorkuta Mining and Economics College burned 53 books, including textbooks about logic, French surrealism, and criminology. A spokesperson said they were full of ideas “alien to Russian ideology.” A Western foundation created by George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist, had provided the money to publish the books. The college also seized another 427 books for shredding.

2019: In the United States, people demanded the removal of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series from public libraries. Complainants objected to depictions of magic, witchcraft, and “actual curses and spells” in the text. They also disliked the characters’ use of “nefarious means” to achieve their goals, reported the American Library Association (ALA). The fantasy novels— there are seven in all—chronicle the lives of students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The ALA also reported that Harry Potter books were the most frequently challenged in U.S. public libraries from 2000 to 2009.

2019: In the United States, people demanded the removal of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale from public library shelves. Complainants objected to profanity and “vulgarity and sexual overtones” in the text, reported the American Library Association (ALA). The novel, which was published in 1985, depicts a future Christian theocracy in the southern half of North
America. The ALA also reported that Atwood’s novel was the 88th most frequently challenged book from 2000 to 2009 and the 37th most frequently challenged book from 1990 to 1999 in U.S. public libraries.

What do you think of this second part of the list? Any which you are in agreement with, or disagree with the decision? Do you agree with censorship of books?

My previous post was part one of the list.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂


6 responses to “Part 2: Bannings and Burnings in History

  1. Very interesting, Lynn. The power of the written word!


  2. Seems like every book I review now gets banned somewhere. But I keep reviewing them because not everyone feels that way!


    • Good for you, Patricia! I believe there are so many books needlessly being picked apart when there are numerous other things of greater concern that need to be addressed. Keep reviewing! And thank you for your comment.


  3. I don’t like censorship but can agree there may be times when it is necssary for National Security.


I look forward to reading your greatly appreciated comments. Thanks for making my day! :)

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