With book bans and other censorship efforts continuing to spread, the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers have teamed up with other industry organizations to call on all members of the book community to affirm their commitment to a joint statement reaffirming the landmark 1953 Freedom to Read statement on its 70th anniversary.
The Freedom to Read Statement was first published on June 25, 1953, by the ALA and the American Book Publishers Council (the forerunner to the Association of American Publishers), and opens with an observation that is still relevant today—that while the freedom to read is essential to our democracy, it is continuously under attack. The Authors Guild and the American Booksellers Association have also given their support to the initiative and the statement has been signed by dozens of publishers and other industry members as well as hundreds of authors.
“To be clear, not every expression of authorship will withstand the rigorous and sustained scrutiny of the marketplace of ideas, but our free society requires that we have the right to make up our own minds about what we choose to read and what we think of what we’ve read. As our predecessors stated in 1953, ‘Americans do not need others to do their thinking for them,’ said Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the ALA; Allison Hill, CEO of the ABA; Maria Pallante, president and CEO of the AAP; and Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild in a joint statement.
The Freedom to Read Statement was first issued in response to censorship efforts that soared during the McCarthy era, and the heads of the publishing organizations noted that “as we grapple with a new wave of censorship in schools, libraries, and bookstores targeting a wide range of expression, including fiction and nonfiction, the Freedom to Read Statement remains an important defense of the freedom to write, publish and inquire.” Other groups that have endorsed the call to reaffirm the statement include PEN America, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Association of University Presses, and the National Association of College stores. Authors who have signed the call literally run from A (Marjorie A. Appleby) to Z (Larry Zuckerman).
The joint effort comes during the annual conference of the ALA, during which the fight against censorship has been the major theme. The action comes in the midst of an unprecedented surge in book challenges and legislative attacks on the freedom to read, with more than 60 state bills introduced that would restrict or chill what Americans may read.
The full Freedom to Read Statement (which has been updated three times since 1953, the last time in 2004) is available here. Anyone looking to support the commitment to the freedom to read can sign here.