[Infographic] Banned Books Week
The right to free expression includes the freedom to read whatever we choose. Yet state governments and local school districts have attempted to ban the books shown on this bookmark. Since its inception, the ACLU has fought censorship - because a government that polices what we read polices our thought.
Started in 1982, Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and calls attention to the wealth of creative expression that is stifled when books can be forbidden from library shelves. The ACLU has always vigilantly defended the First Amendment and the right to free speech. We believe in an educated citizenry and a society where ideas are openly disseminated, discussed, and debated. And throughout our history, we have worked to protect the right to access information, and the right to make up your own mind.
Hover over each book below to learn a bit about its history.
- Gone with the Wind
Banned from a California high school district (1978) and challenged in an Illinois high school district (1984).
- As I Lay Dying
Banned in Mayfield, Ky. (1986), for treatment of religion and abortion; ban reversed following intense pressure from the ACLU.
Pulled from AP English classes at a Kentucky high school (2007) over complaints of its treatment of bestiality, racism, and sex.
Challenged in schools in Florida, Texas, Maine, and Indiana. Complaints included its language and depictions of violence and sex.
Banned in Strongsville, Ohio (1972); ban overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District.
Challenged in Dallas, Texas (1974), and Washington town (1979). Washington challenge related to references of women as "whores."
Ranked 26th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- Brave New World
Removed in Miller, Mo. (1982), for making "promiscuous sex look like fun," among other complaints.
Challenged in Yukon, Okla. (1988); Corona-Norco, Calif. (1993); Foley, Ala. (2000); Mercedes, Texas (2003); and Coeur D'Alene, Idaho (2008). Complaints included characters' sexual behavior and "contempt for religion, marriage, and family."
Ranked 36th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- The Color Purple
Challenged or banned in: Oakland, Calif. (1984); Hayward, Calif. (1985); Newport News, Va. (1986); Saginaw, Mich. (1989); Chattanooga, Tenn. (1989); Ten Sleep, Wyo. (1990); Souderton, Pa. (1992); New Bern, N.C. (1992); St. Augustine, Fla. (1995); High Point, N.C. (1996); Fairfax, Va. (2002); Morganton, N.C. (2008).
Challenges included complaints about "sexual and social explicitness, and troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history and human sexuality."
Ranked 17th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- Death of a Salesman
Banned in French Lick, Ind. (1981); challenged in Dallas, Texas (1974), Sinking Valley, Ky. (1987),Tamms, Ill. (1997).
- The Catcher in the Rye
Challenged or banned on dozens of occasions since its publication and to this day.
Examples of complaints: for being "a filthy, filthy book"; because it is "blasphemous and undermines morality"; because it depicts premarital sex, alcohol abuse and prostitution; and because of "lurid passages about sex, and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled."
Ranked 19th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Challenged in South Carolina schools (1999) because of "serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect, and sheer evil."
Challenged, in 2001, in: Bend, Ore.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Salamanca, N.Y.; Whittier, Calif.; Pace, Fla.; Arab, Ala.; Fresno, Calif.; and Bristol, N.H. Burned at New Mexico school as "a masterpiece of satanic deception."
Federal judge overturned restricted access to the book in Cedarville, Ariz. (2004).
Removed from Catholic school in Wakefield, Maine over themes of witchcraft and sorcery.
The Harry Potter series on the whole ranks number 1 of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
U.S. Customs officials seized 520 copies of the poem in 1957, whereupon publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested on obscenity charges.
The ACLU supported Ferlinghetti in trial, a landmark case in First Amendment Rights.
Banned for its raw imagery, openly sexual content and pronouncements of a cultural revolution.
- A Light in the Attic
Challenged in 1985 at Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wisc., because it "encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them."
Banned by a Florida elementary school in 1993 because it "promotes disrespect, horror, and violence".
Questioned because author Shel Silverstein's career included having drawn cartoons for Playboy, leading some to claim that the book contained "suggestive illustrations."
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
First banned one year after its publication by Concord Public Library (Concord, Mass.) for being "trash and suitable only for the slums."
Challenged on several occasions since its publication, especially for its frequent use of the word "nigger." It was said to be "racially insensitive" and "oppressive," and that it "perpetuates racism."
Banned by the Brooklyn Public Library in 1905.
Ranked 14th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- James and the Giant Peach
Challenged in River County, Fla., because of the story's mystical elements involving the magic crocodile tongues, given to James to enchant the peach tree.
Banned by a town in Wisconsin because of a reference to a spider licking her lips that could be "taken in two ways, including sexual." Challenged separately in Altoona, Wis., in 1991 because of repeated use of the word "ass."
Challenged by a woman in Hernando County, Fla., in 1992 because of the grasshopper's statement, "I'd rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican."
Ranked 50th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 1990 and 1999.
Currently ranked number 56 of 100 on the ALA's top 100 banned or challenged books in America.
- The Joy of Sex
Removed from public library in Nampa, Idaho in 2007; returned to circulation following pressure from ACLU.
- Lord of the Flies
Challenges dozens of times since the 1960s – including in Dallas, North Carolina, South Dakota, Arizona, Iowa, and Florida – because of its stark and dystopian exploration of human nature, its commentary on putting the self before the common good, and over accusations of racism.
Ranked 68th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 1990 and 1999.
- Native Son
Challenged in Goffstown, N.H. (1978); Elmwood Park, N.J. (1978), due to "objectionable" language; and North Adams, Mass. (1981), due to the book's "violence, sex, and profanity"; Berrian Springs, Mich. (1988); Yakima, Wash. (1994); High Point, N.C. (1996); Fremont, Calif. (1998); Fort Wayne, Ind. (1998).
Complaints included charges that the novel is "vulgar," "profane," and "sexually graphic."
- Of Mice and Men
Challenged or banned several times since publication for various reasons including: "using God's name in vain," profanity, racial slurs, treatment of the mentally challenged, and violence.
Challenged or banned dozens of times; challenges continue to this day.
Ranked fifth of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- Portnoy's Complaint
Banned by many libraries in the U.S. because over sexually explicit language.
- The Sun Also Rises
Banned in Boston, Mass. (1930); Riverside, Calif. (1960); San Jose, Calif. (1960).
- The Pentagon Papers
Barred for publication by the Nixon administration (1971). The Supreme Court ultimately ordered publication of the papers in New York Times v. United States, where the ACLU filed an amicus brief urging against the injunction on free speech grounds.
- Sophie's Choice
Banned by a high school principal in La Miranda, Calif. (2002), after a parent complained that the sexual material was inappropriate for minors. Later returned to the shelves. The ACLU of Southern California was among the groups that joined in protesting the ban.
Challenged in Drake, N.D., and Rochester, Mich. (1973); Levittown, N.Y. (1975); North Jackson, Ohio (1979); Lakeland, Fla. (1982); Round Rock, Texas (1992); and Prince William County, Va. (1998), for violence and sexual explicitness. Removed as required reading at a high school in Coventry, R.I. (2000). Challenged in court in Howell, Mich. (2007), to determine whether it violated laws against the distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors.
Ranked 46th of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
- To Kill a Mockingbird
Challenged or banned on several occasions since its publication: Eden Valley, Minn. (1977); Sherill, N.Y. (1980); Warren, Ind. (1981); Waukegan, Ill. (1984); Kansas City and Park Hill, Mo. (1985); Casa Grande, Ariz. (1985); Santa Cruz, Calif. (1995); Caddo Parish, La. (1995); Moss Point, Miss. (1996); Lindale, Texas (1996); Glynn County, Ga. (2001); Muskogee, Okla. (2001); Normal, Ill. (2003); Durham, N.C. (2004); Brentwood, Tenn. (2006); Cherry Hill, N.J. (2007); Brampton, Ontario (2009).
Challenged for explicit language and profanity, for frequent use of racial slurs, for promoting white supremacy, and for containing adult themes like sex, rape, and incest.
Ranked 21st of the top 100 banned or challenged books in America between 2000 and 2009.
Banned in the entire United States by customs censors for its potential to inspire "impure and lustful thoughts."
In response to a suit filed by the ACLU, a district court threw out the ban in 1933.