September 23 – 28 is 2019’s Banned Books Week. Held annually since 1982 and sponsored by the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association, Banned Books Week is celebrated “in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Having existed in one form or another since 1893, UC Press has lived through many periods of cultural hysteria and censorship. From World War One furor, to McCarthy’s blacklists, through to contemporary prison library interdictions, many UC Press books have been given that unique designation of “BANNED.” Here collected is a small selection of banned or censored UC Press titles, showing that the university will always be pushing intellectual boundaries.
by Mark Twain
First banned almost immediately upon publication in the United States, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has maintained its controversial status up to the present day. Initially deemed problematic due to its “crude” humor, the book continues to draw criticism for the pervasive presence of racist language and has been banned from several high school curriculums in recent years.
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.
This expansive history of the Black Panther Party attracted the critical (if not entirely unexpected) eye of the California Department of State Corrections and Rehabilitation. Before the book was even published, UC Press received notice that the book had been placed on the “Centralized List of Disapproved Publications” due to containing “written materials or photographs that indicate an association with STG [security threat group] members or associates which posses a threat to the safety and security of our institutions.” The letter can be read in its entirety here.
by Ruth Wilson Gilmore
The UC Press title with the most recent confirmed ban, Golden Gulag concerns the paradox of how the country’s most outspokenly progressive state has also been the site of the most aggressively expansive prison extension in history. Notably, it was included in Illinois’s Education Justice Project, a University of Illinois program designed to provide post-secondary education to incarcerated inmates. The program and the Illinois Department of Corrections were recently ensnared in scandal when prison officials suddenly suspended courses and prohibited the use of 200 books with “racial” content. More can be read about the banning here.
While not subject to an outright ban, Film Quarterly maintained a fast-and-loose association with Communism during the age of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. Founded in 1945 under the name of Hollywood Quarterly, and later Quarterly of Film, Radio, and Television, the journal rebranded itself as Film Quarterly in 1958, in part to create a more academic discourse around the art of film, and in part to throw off pursuit of the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 2008, former editor Ernest Callenbach wrote extensively about this period of the journal’s history.