Forbidden Books in American Public Libraries, 1876-1939: A Study in Cultural Change

By Evelyn Geller | Go to book overview

12
FACING ARMAGEDDON: 1935-1939

Now that your learning is abused:
Now that the fighting's at your door:--
Now are you peaceful in your house?
Now are you neutral in this war? . . .

I say the guns are in your house:
I say there is no room for flight.

-- Archibald MacLeish, "Speech to Scholars"

In the second half of the decade, the ideology of uncompromising freedom passed from outsiders, dissidents, and idealistic neophytes to the professional library leaders. This movement occurred when the value of democracy, challenged from abroad and assailed from within, was embraced with increasing fervor. Yet these factors do not alone explain the adoption of the 1939 Library Bill of Rights. To them must be added pressure from a segment of the profession upon its leaders.

By 1935 America was becoming a haven for exiles. In 1933, the New School for Social Research had set up its University in Exile for emigré intellectuals, who included Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Arturo Toscanini, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, and George Grosz. At the same time, Fascists and Jew-hating organizations were growing, among them Father Coughlin's Christian Front, while sedition bills were passed or considered in a number of states.

Demands for loyalty oaths and other challenges made academic freedom an issue in universities and schools and a major dispute at the 1935 National Education Association conference. In spring 1935 John Strachey was deported from the United States for his Socialist views. James T. Farrell A World I Never Made was tried for obscenity and acquitted. Uniting against fascism, liberals and Communists joined forces in the Popular Front.1

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