1955 March 28

“Blackboard Jungle” Banned in Memphis


The film Blackboard Jungle was banned in Memphis, Tennessee, on this day because authorities feared that its depiction of juvenile delinquency was too graphic and might lead kids who see the movie into delinquency. One of the most notable aspects of the film was the opening credits with Bill Haley and the Comets playing Rock around the Clock on the soundtrack. This was probably the first mainstream movie to feature a rock and roll hit record so prominently.

For other incidents involving either Blackboard Jungle or Rock Around the Clock, see May 19, 1955 when there was a “riot” at Princeton University when students blasted Rock Around the Clock from multiple dorm windows, and August 26, 1955 when Blackboard Jungle was removed as the US entry in the Venice Film Festival, apparently as a result of U.S. government pressure.

The irony of the ban on the film, of course, was that Memphis is where Elvis Presley recorded his famous first records at Sun Studios in 1954. The city now celebrates its rock and roll heritage, advertising both the Sun Studios museum and Graceland as tourist attractions.

Visit historic Sun Records Studios: http://www.sunstudio.com/plan-your-tour/

Learn more about censorship of rock and roll music: Eric Nuzum, Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America (2001)

Watch the trailer for Blackboard Jungle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_RWFLBC4O8

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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