Friday, September 10, 2010

Great moments in bookburning history

June 16, 1953:  Secretary of State John Foster Dulles admitted that a small number of books had literally been burned by staff of American libraries overseas after they were ordered to rid their shelves of works by communist authors. An embarrassed President Eisenhower, speaking at the Dartmouth College commencement, urged the graduates not to "join the bookburners" but to read and learn what communism really is and fight it with full understanding. The banned authors included NAACP president Walter White, New York Herald Tribune chief Washington correspondent Bert Andrews, and detective novelist Dashiell Hammett.

November 16, 1973:  Residents of Drake, N.D. (pop. 650) were dumfounded at criticism leveled against their town after school employees burned 32 paperback copies of Slaughterhouse Five on orders from the school board, which had concluded that the book was "unsuitable for 15-year-old minds." A school spokesman said the board was also examining books by John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner that had been assigned by the same teacher and if they were found unsuitable they would destroyed, too.

March 21, 1958:  Department of Agriculture officials were reported to have burned 2,500 copies of a recent farm census report that implicitly criticized Republican farm policies. Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Don Paarlberg admitted he had ordered the booklets destroyed because they were "deemed to be statistically not representative in certain respects."

November 24, 1952: A preacher in Rocky Mount, N.C., announced he would burn a copy of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible to protest the substitution of "young woman" for "virgin" and other changes from the King James version. He also charged that the National Council of Churches of Christ was deriving an "unmoral profit" from royalties on the book. "I think their price is a little steep anyhow," he added.