1985 April 23

Farley Mowat, Canadian Author, Denied Entry into U.S.


The administration of President Ronald Reagan launched a “war on ideas,” designed to keep out of the U.S. writers and political activists who disagreed with its policies. On this day, it denied a visa to Farley Mowat, a successful Canadian writer who is most famous for his best-selling book Never Cry Wolf (1963). He was never told why he was denied entry the U.S., other than to say that he might have violated any one of 33 American laws. The publicity over the government’s action was so embarrassing that the Reagan administration reversed its position and issued him a visa. He declined to accept it.

See the documentary on the Reagan administration Visa War, January 6, 1987.

The Reagan administration’s “war on ideas” recalled the policies of the 1950s, when the U.S. denied visas to people whose views it did not like and denied passports to Americans who were critical of cold war policies. See, for example, of passports to African American activist and singer Paul Robeson (August 4, 1950), artist Rockwell Kent (August 7, 1950), and activist and civil libertarian Corliss Lamont (October 15, 1951).

Read Mowat’s story about his case: Farley Mowat, My Discovery of America (1985)

Watch an interview with Farley Mowathttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB3IQMZm7CQ

See the movie Never Cry Wolf  (1983) [Editorial note: It is both a wonderful book and a beautifully photographed film, but many people regard his original non-fiction account as largely fiction].

Learn more about ideological exclusion in U.S. visa policy: https://www.aclu.org/national-security/ideological-exclusion

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