1922 September 7

Post Office Lifts Ban on Alexander Berkman’s “Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist”


Postmaster General Will Hays on this day lifted the ban on Alexander Berkman’s book, Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, making it the last political publication banned by the U.S. Post Office during the World War I and Red Scare era (1917–1920). Berkman had already been deported from the U.S., along with Emma Goldman, on December 21, 1919.

Censorship of sexually related materials continued, however, and even increased over the next several years. On the continuing Post Office censorship of sexually related materials, see the famous arrest and subsequent vindication of Mary Ware Dennett, author of the sex education pamphlet, The Sex Side of Life (April 23, 1929; March 30, 1930).

Will Hays soon left his position to become head of the Hollywood Motion Picture Producers, where he persuaded increasingly stronger self-censorship measures by the film industry. That effort culminated in the repressive Hollywood Code, enacted on June 13, 1934.

Hear an excerpt from Alexander Berkman, The ABC of Anarchism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDEx18aK-xk

Learn more about Alexander Berkman: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAberkman.htm

Read about Berkman’s life with Emma Goldman: Vivian Gornick, Emma Goldman: Revolution as a Way of Life (2011)

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