1982 June 25

Public School Library Censorship: “Island Trees v. Pico”


The case of Island Trees v. Pico involved a challenge to the removal of noted literary works from the library of the New York Island Trees School District because the Board of Education deemed them “anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Sem[i]tic, and just plain filthy.” The censorship included such recognized classics as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five; Richard Wright’s, Black Boy; and an anthology of Best Negro Short Stories edited by the famed African-America poet Langston Hughes, among others.

The Supreme Court split 4–4 on this day, with one Justice holding that the Court did not need to decide the issue. The result left the lower court ruling favoring the school district’s position.

Two months after the decision, the school board reversed itself and voted, on August 12, 1982, to return the nine books to the school libraries.

Learn more about the Library Bill of Rights: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

Go to the Banned Book Week web site: http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

Learn more:  Joan DelFattore, What Johnny Shouldn’t Read: Textbook Censorship in America (1992)

Banned Book Week; authors speak out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKE7k5Qjobw

Read about libraries and the censorship wars: Valerie Nye and Kathy Barko, True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries (2012)

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