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"The Most Frequently Banned Books in the 1990s"

This list is taken from the table of contents of Banned in the U.S.A. by Herbert N. Foerstel. It shows the fifty books that were most frequently challenged in schools and public libraries in the United States between 1990 and 1992. Banned in the U.S.A. has more information about the efforts to keep each title out of schools. (Here's the publisher's information on the book <>.)


Most Banned Books

The books in blue are ones that I think is just ridiculous and is band because of obnoxious people who live in some other reality other than our own. (Many of these people haven’t even read the books. Like we have seen people criticizing Harry Potter) They live in a world of sugar and cream, where children are molly coddled, children where white clothes and evil doesn’t touch children. Let’s go back to old fashioned values. The part people forget about old-fashioned values is when there was a problem it wasn’t talked about or dealt with allowing child abuse, molestation, date rape and unwed mothers to fall through the cracks. We all would like to live in denial but some of us have to live in reality so that we can fight the evil of the world. So that the innocent can be empowered and the disenfranchised can rage against the dying of the light. Some of these books have been instrumental in combating evil and are band by people who just don’t get it. 

I have read several of these books and have included my comments

Impressions Edited by Jack Booth et al.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It has cussing, a lot of cussing.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). One of the most instrumental books against prejudice.
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
More Scary Stories in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Curses, Hexes, and Spells by Daniel Cohen
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. I did a report on this on in grammar school and made Fried Worm Cookies. Ban it..whatever!
Blubber by Judy Blume. What it is like to be fat.
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman. Not sure about this one. Heather has two mommies because mommy loves my other mommy. Not sure about this one.
Christine by Stephen King. Not a kid’s book and was never meant to be.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.
Fallen Angels by Walter Myers
The New Teenage Body Book by Kathy McCoy and Charles Wibbelsman
Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The greatest lesson on not talking to strangers. This is something children should have a healthy fear of.
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Snyder
Night Chills by Dean Koontz
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A lesson that is almost too brutal. I would have to say this book is for an older audience of children. Not a kid’s book and was never meant to be.
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. There is violence in this book but I have felt compassion for the ancestors of our African-American Population through this book. One of the most instrumental books against prejudice.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks
The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Snyder. A girl gets into trouble when she finds out she is a witch and her ugly cat ‘Worm” is her familiar. The objection to this book is the occult in a children’s book. The lesson learned about taking responsibility for ones own actions especially in ones ritual and belief redeems any occult references.
My Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Cujo by Stephen King. Not a kids book and was never meant to be.
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Figure in the Shadows by John Bellairs
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. This book was on the list because you can see the little boy’s winkie when he is going to take a bath in soup. Maurice author of “Where the Wild Things Are” said that he meant nothing by it. I have trouble recommending this book.
Grendel by John Champlin Gardner. This book is the story of Beowolf from the monster’s perspective. The book gets into trouble with graphic violence, which in my opinion is no greater than the violence when David cuts off Goliath’s head. I would feel nervous about reading this to young children.
I Have to Go by Robert Munsch
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. One of the most instrumental books against prejudice.
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
My House by Nikki Giovanni
Then Again, Maybe I Won't by Judy Blume
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. "It is about the government legitmizations of fornication with the intent to impregnant healthy women after a nuclear type holocost. It is a truly wonderful masterpiece. Although, having said that, I would not recommend this book until a person is a very mature reader. Not for subject matter, but the correct interpretation of the subject matter, in the manner that the author intended the text to be read. I am a high school teacher, and while I would never support this book on the banned list, I would only have my AP 12 grade students read it (and that would be at the very end of the year.)" -Lara Quealey
Witches, Pumpkins, and Grinning Ghosts: The Story of the Halloween Symbols by Edna Barth. Let’s just beat up on a book because it educates children to the origins of something. I am under the feeling that a healthy understanding of folk traditions and beliefs do not under mind a child’s belief. Some of the origins are fun and not bad. The more we try to protect children from something by keeping them ignorant the more likely they will gravitate to it with out our insight and our understanding. Most children that I know who have gone into Wicca or dark occult had no understanding from their parents in occult. In fact it was taboo to talk about it.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz


Books Suppressed or Censored by Legal Authorities

Ulysses by James Joyce was recently selected by the Modern Library as the best novel of the 20th century, and has received wide praise from other literature scholars, including those who have defended online censorship. (Carnegie Mellon English professor and vice-provost Erwin Steinberg, who praised the book in 1994, also defended CMU's declaration that year to delete and some 80 other newsgroups, claiming they were legally obligated to do so.) Ulysses was barred from the United States as obscene for 15 years, and was seized by U.S Postal Authorities in 1918 and 1930. The lifting of the ban in 1933 came only after advocates fought for the right to publish the book.

In 1930, U.S. Customs seized Harvard-bound copies of Candide by Voltaire. Voltaire's critically hailed satire, claiming obscenity. Two Harvard professors defended the work, and it was later admitted in a different edition. In 1944, the US Post Office demanded the omission of Candide from a mailed Concord Books catalog.

John Cleland's Fanny Hill (also known as Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure) has been frequently suppressed since its initial publication in 1749. This story of a prostitute is known both for its frank sexual descriptions and its parodies of contemporary literature, such as Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders. The U.S Supreme Court finally cleared it from obscenity charges in 1966.

Aristophanes' Lysistrata, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio's Decameron, Defoe's Moll Flanders and various editions of The Arabian Nights were all banned for decades from the U.S. mails under the Comstock Law of 1873. Officially known as the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act, this law banned the mailing of "lewd", "indecent", "filthy", or "obscene" materials. The Comstock laws, while now unenforced, remain for the most part on the books today; the Telecommunications Reform Bill of 1996 even specifically applied some of them to computer networks. The anti-war Lysistrata was banned again in 1967 in Greece, which was then controlled by a military junta.

The Comstock law also forbade distribution of birth control information. In 1915, Margaret Sanger's husband was jailed for distributing her Family Limitation, which described and advocated various methods of contraception. Sanger herself had fled the country to avoid prosecution, but would return in 1916 to start the American Birth Control League, which eventually merged with other groups to form Planned Parenthood.

Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman's famous collection of poetry, was withdrawn in Boston in 1881, after the District Attorney threatened criminal prosecution for the use of explicit language in some poems. The work was later published in Philadelphia.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau's autobiography was banned by U.S. Customs in 1929 as injurious to public morality. His philosophical works were also banned in the USSR in 1935, and some were placed on the Catholic Church's Index of Prohibited Books in the 18th century. (The Index was a primarily a matter of church law, but in some areas before the mid-19th century, it also had the force of secular law.

Thomas Paine, best known for his writings supporting American independence, was indicted for treason in England in 1792 for his work “The Rights of Man”, defending the French Revolution. More than one English publisher was also prosecuted for printing “The Age of Reason”, where Paine argues for Deism and against Christianity and Atheism.

Blaise Pascal's “The Provincial Letters”
a defense of the Jansenist Antoine Arnauld, was ordered shredded and burned by King Louis XIV of France in 1660. France also banned Tasso's “Jerusalem Delivered” in the 16th century for containing ideas subversive to the authority of kings.

Jack London's writing was censored in several European dictatorships in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1929, Italy banned all cheap editions of his “Call of the Wild” and Yugoslavia banned all his works as being "too radical". Some of London's works were also burned by the Nazis.

South Africa's apartheid regime banned a number of classic books; in 1955, for instance, the New York Times reported that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was banned there as "indecent, objectionable, or obscene". The regime also banned Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, a story about a horse.

In nervous times, politically motivated censorship has occurred in the United States as well. In 1954, the Providence, RI, post office attempted to block delivery of Lenin's State and Revolution to Brown University, citing it as "subversive". In 1918, the US War Department told the American Library Association to remove a number of pacifist and "disturbing" books, including Ambrose Bierce's “Can Such Things Be?” from camp libraries, a directive which was taken to apply to the homefront as well.

Also during World War I, the US government jailed those who were distributing anti-draft pamphlets. Schenck, the publisher of the pamphlet, was convicted, and his conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1919. (This decision was the source of the well-known "fire in a theatre" quote.)

The Bible and The Qur'an were both removed from numerous libraries and banned from import in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1956. Many editions of the Bible have also been banned and burned by civil and religious authorities throughout history. On July 1, 1996, Singapore convicted a woman for possessing the Jehovah's Witness translation of the Bible. A 1997 US government study reported that Burma (also known as Myanmar) bans all Bible translations into local indigenous languages. (The military dictatorship of that country also required modems to be licensed, so residents of Burma, like NetNanny users, are not likely to see this page.)

Some governments still tightly control religious organizations and their publications. In 1999, the government of China banned the Falun Gong sect and confiscated and destroyed books by their founder and other Falun Gong books. As you can see, the books live on over the Internet-- at least in places that don't censor incoming Net data.

D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was the object of numerous obscenity trials in both the UK and the United States up into the 1960s.

E for Ecstasy, a book on the drug MDMA, was seized by Australian customs in 1994, and at last check (May 2000), the official ban on the book was still in force in that country.

In the 1999-2000 session, the US Congress quietly slipped similar bans for "dangerous" information on drugs and explosives into various bills. The Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act of 1999 had a section 9 outlawing certain dissemination of information on drug use, patterned after a law outlawing certain dissemination on information on explosives that was signed in 1999. Given that conspiracy or solicitation to commit federal crimes was already illegal, it's hard to see what practical effect is intended by these bills other than to censor the open dissemination of information deemed too dangerous for the public to learn. The anti-drug-information bill didn't make it to a full vote last session, and E For Ecstasy is still legal in the US, for now.

A number of democratic countries, including Austria, France, Germany, and Canada, have criminalized various forms of "hate speech", including books judged to disparage minority groups. In the 1980s, Ernst Zündel was convicted twice under Canada's "false news" laws for publishing Did Six Million Really Die? A 1974 book denying the Holocaust. On appeal, the Canadian Supreme Court found the "false news" law unconstitutional in 1992, but Zündel is now being prosecuted under Canada's "Human Rights Act" for publishing this book and other material on his Zundelsite. Even so, Deborah Lipstadt and some other prominent critics of Holocaust deniers have gone on record as opposing laws that would censor such speech. (On the other hand, Zündel is quite happy to call for bans for works he doesn't like, though, as seen in this leaflet calling for a ban of Schindler's List.)

Unfit for Schools and Minors?

The Savannah Morning News reported in November 1999 that a teacher at the Windsor Forest High School required seniors to obtain permission slips before they could read Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear. The teacher's school board had pulled the books from class reading lists, citing "adult language" and references to sex and violence. Many students and parents protested the school's board's policy, which also included the outright banning of three other books.

Shakespeare is no stranger to censorship: the Associated Press reported in March 1996 that Merrimack, NH schools had pulled Shakespeare's Twelfth Night from the curriculum after the school board passed a "prohibition of alternative lifestyle instruction" act. (Twelfth Night includes a number of romantic entanglements including a young woman who disguises herself as a boy.) Readers from Merrimack informed me in 1999 that school board members who had passed the act had been voted out, after the uproar resulting from the act's passage, and that the play is now used again in Merrimack classrooms. Govind has a page with more information about the censorship of Shakespeare through history.

Harry Potter series, which was banned for a time in Zeeland, Michigan schools.

Opinion: I disagree with anyone who wants to band Harry Potter. I have read them and I have no problem with them. Yes there are occult references but they are not true occult. Mandrakes are in the book but not the ones of folklore. Even Grinny Lows are aquatic sea creatures not a nursery boogie that in legend they are. It may create a desire to do magic. But a true dialog with your children will protect against that.

John T. Scopes was convicted in 1925 of teaching the evolutionary theory of Darwin's Origin of Species in his high school class. The Tennessee law prohibiting teaching evolution theory was finally repealed in 1967, but further laws intended to stifle the teaching of evolution in science classes have been proposed in the Tennessee legislature as recently as 1996.

Historical: This trial was a set up. The community leaders got together to find a way to bring life to there struggling community. They came up with the Monkey Trials, which brought people from all around into the community. The whole thing was staged.

An illustrated edition of "Little Red Riding Hood" was banned in two California school districts in 1989. Following the Little Red-Cap story from Grimm's Fairy Tales, the book shows the heroine taking food and wine to her grandmother. The school districts cited concerns about the use of alcohol in the story.

Historical: Wine was the regular drink in ancient times. Wine didn’t mean it was alcoholic. Grape juice was called wine. They didn’t have sanitation many times and in rural areas: the wine was cleaner than the water. Not everything put into wine bottles is wine. The first canned foods where bottled, pasteurized foods for sea going vessels in the military.

Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were excluded from the juvenile sections of the Brooklyn Public library (among other libraries), and banned from the library in Concord, MA, home of Henry Thoreau. Huckleberry Finn has been dropped from high school reading lists due to alleged racism. For example, in March of 1995, such concerns caused it to be removed from the reading list of 10th grade English classes at National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, according to the Washington Post. A New Haven correspondent reports it has been removed from one public school program there as well. Recent objections have often concerned the use of the word "nigger"; a word that also got Uncle Tom's Cabin challenged in Waukegan, Illinois.

Many "classics" (and their authors) were regarded as scandalous when they were first published, but after the author was safely dead they were relegated to high school English classes and largely forgotten by most people. However, in 1978 Union High School (in Anaheim, CA) woke up to the danger of George Eliot's Silas Marner and banned it. I would be gratified (and not at all surprised) if there was a sudden surge of interest in Eliot among Anaheim students afterwards.

John Locke's philosophical Essay Concerning Human Understanding was expressly forbidden to be taught at Oxford University in 1701. The French translation was also placed on the Index.

Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was banned from classrooms in Midland, Michigan in 1980, due to its portrayal of the Jewish character Shylock. It has been similarly banned in the past in Buffalo and Manchester, NY. Shakespeare's plays have also often been "cleansed" of crude words and phrases. Thomas Bowdler's efforts in his 1818 "Family Shakespeare" gave rise to the word "bowdlerize".

My opinion: The Merchant of Venice isn’t about a bad Jewish character as it is about bad Christians. The lesson in Merchant is against Hatred and attempting murder. Why can’t there be a bad Jewish character. We have bad everything else characters. I think its discrimination if a Jewish character can’t be bad.

Bowdlerism still exists today, but nowadays cleaning up sexual references is waning in popularity, and cleaning up racial references is growing in popularity. Case in point: The Story of Dr. Dolittle from the 1960s, was silently "cleaned up" from the 1920 original, in which Polynesia the parrot occasionally used some impolite terms to refer to blacks. In 1988, after the book had fallen from favor enough to have dropped out of print, the publishers issued a new edition that removed nearly all references to race from the book (and cut out a plotline involving Prince Bumpo's desire to become white). In contrast, the Newbery-winning Voyages of Dr. Dolittle has been available in its original form (impolite words and all) for a long time, in part because the Newbery awarders forbade their medal to be displayed on altered texts.

Similar concerns about the handling of race apparently caused The Story of Little Black Sambo to be banned from Toronto public schools in 1956, according to a book by Daniel Braithwaite. (Much of the fuss over Sambo has been over the illustrations rather than the text; some illustrations from various editions can be found here

Is The Bible banned in US public schools? Some claim it is, though most of the claims I've received in email have either not contained specifics or referred to cases that weren't bans, but instead cases where a state school had to stop advocacy or special treatment favoring the religious messages of the Bible. (Such preferential treatment by state-run schools conflicts with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.) However, sometimes schools may err in the other direction, restricting student's individual speech because of its religious nature (in conflict with the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment). In New Jersey, for instance, a student selected by his teacher to choose a story to read to the class was told that he could not read the story he chose, once he announced that he had chosen the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau. Earlier, the school had also removed from display a poster he had drawn as a Thanksgiving assignment, where he depicted being thankful for Jesus. In August 2000, as reported in a an AP article at Freedom Forum a federal appeals court came to a split decision in a lawsuit raised on these issues. An appeal to the US Supreme Court is next.

The 1996 telecommunications bill passed by the US Congress included a provision that prohibited making "indecent" material generally available. It was struck down as unconstitutional in federal court on June 12, 1996, a judgment affirmed by the Supreme Court on June 26, 1997. Congress later passed a variation on the law, targeting commercial sites, which is still being fought in the courts. Find out about the latest news, and what you can do to help free speech online, at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Blue Ribbon Campaign. Some of the projects being done in response to such censorship attempts include 24 Hours of Democracy

US government officials are also now imposing censorship at the reader's end, instead of the writer's. A few years back, Loudoun County, Virginia at one point required all library patrons (whether child to use their filter program to access the Internet, a program that one time blocked Banned Books Online and many other sites. The editor of this page, and other parties, participated in a lawsuit that struck down this policy. Despite this decision, in 2000 the US Congress required libraries across the country to filter all of their Internet connections (not just those used by children) or lose assistance for Internet access. The American Library Association is fighting this law, and has more information on it.

This exhibit began at Carnegie Mellon, where the administration decided in 1994 to remove over 80 newsgroups on sexual matters, claiming that it was required to by law. Resolutions by the official student, faculty, and staff representative groups requested that the groups be restored. After nearly 2 years in limbo, all newsgroups have been restored to CMU computer science servers, but 11 remain banned on the undergraduate Andrew system.

The Church of Scientology is frequently involved in censorship cases. In the 1970s, they attempted to remove books critical of the Church from libraries in Canada by suing libraries in Hamilton and Etobicoke. Church officials also took direct action against some authors of critical books. Their latest targets have been people on the Net. (Recent news: as of May 1999, Amazon had pulled at least one critical book of Scientology under "legal pressure", though after reaction from the Net. After Amazon announced it would offer it again, book sales shot up to Amazon's top 200.

Scientology also figures in recent attempts to legally force anonymous speakers to be identified. Where the Digital Millenium Copyright Act was eventually used to divulge a speaker's identity even though no wrongdoing had yet been proved. Anonymous speech has been held to be "an honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent" by the US Supreme Court, and has been an important part of US political discourse since the Revolution. (For example, The Federalist Papers, which were originally published anonymously.) While anonymous speakers can still be sued for libel and infringement, and made to pay if they lose, their anonymity can protect them against harassment and arbitrary dismissal upheld the rights of anonymous speakers to criticize public officials online.



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