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Issues - Censorship History

Abstract Expressionism, Machismo, and the Cultural Cold War
(February 2, 2017) - How rampant sexism and Cold War politics combined to exclude women artists at the dawn of the "Ab Ex" era.

What's Left of Keyishian?
(January 23, 2017) - Thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's most important ruling on academic freedom.

The Notorious Woman Artists of 1943
(February 4, 2016) - A groundbreaking exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery inspired outpourings of sexist mockery and condescension, but also grudging admiration.

Book Banning, Obscenity, and "Harm to Minors"
(June 3, 2014) - The Fair Observer interviews Marjorie Heins.

In "Subversives, It is the FBI, Not Student Radicals, Who Subvert the Constitution
(April 29. 2014) - Journalist Seth Rosenfeld litigated for thirty years against the FBI to obtain the files that form the basis of his book.

Does Academic Freedom Protect Teachers or Institutions - or Both?
(October 28, 2013) -Marjorie Heins dissects this and other questions in her "Davis Markert Nickerson" Academic Freedom Lecture at the University of Michigan.

What's In a Name? The Mismeasure of Terrorism
(July 17, 2013) -It's argued that civil liberties must give way to fighting terorrism - but some definitions of terrorism are dangerous broad, and include nonviolent protest.

Prurience and Homophobia During the Red Scare
(July 16, 2013) - A book about the notorious Johns Committee of Florida chronicles a vicious assault on gay men and lesbians.

The Family Shakespeare
(April 23, 2011) - A new play re-imagines the notorious Bowdler family and debates the eternal question of literary censorship.

Guilt By Association: Georgia's Anti-Subversive Test Oath
(Aug. 17, 2010) - The performance artist Karen Finley has refused to sign an oath denying revolutionary ideas or associations - a Cold War witch hunt era relic of the sort that the Supreme Court invalidated more than 40 years ago.

FEPP's Latest Slide Show: Minors, Censorship & Sex
(updated, June 27, 2012) - This powerpoint describes the current court battle over "fleeting expletives" on the airwaves, as well as background on the history of censorship aimed at protecting youth.

What Makes a Conscientious Objector?
(June 9, 2009) - Some problems with Ohio's anti-terrorist oath.

On Human Frailty and Public Interest Law
(May 1, 2009) -Wendy Kaminer's chronicle of turmoil at the national ACLU raises hard questions about clannishness, the herd instinct, and the inevitable realities of organizational life.

FEPP's Slide Show of Controversial and Censored Art
(May 2008) - From the erotic frescos of Pompeii to today's battles over fair use - an entertaining and informative history of censored images.

The Insidious Persistence of Loyalty Oaths
(May 24, 2008) - A pacifist teacher in California is the latest casualty of an enforced ritual of political conformity imposed on public employees.

The Rest is Noise
(December 22, 2007) -Alex Ross's much-admired new book raises tantalizing questions about music, politics, and censorship.

Another Game Censorship Law is Struck Down
(August 15, 2007) - Why nine court defeats haven't stopped states from trying to restrict "violent" video games.

Secrecy and Freedom
(April 10, 2007) - The government tries to airbrush history when it demands recantation of torture allegations in exchange for a Guantanamo prisoner's plea bargain.

The Truth Seeker
(March 13, 2007) -The first biography of D.M. Bennett, who was jailed for selling a pamphlet that argued against the institution of marriage, highlights the connection between organized religion and censorship.

Fact Sheet on Political Dissent and Censorship
(December 2006) - In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and of U.S. government efforts to combat terrorism by often secretive or constitutionally dubious means, questions have arisen about the scope of First Amendment protection for political dissent. This Fact Sheet outlines the history and constitutional status of political protest, and the free-speech implications of government surveillance and secrecy today.

Fact Sheet on Sex and Censorship
(March 2004) - Where did the exception to the First Amendment for "obscenity" originate? What other ways have government officials found to control erotic speech? And why do some of them continue to do so, in the face of ever more sexual explicitness all around us? FEPP's fact sheet summarizes the history and current status of restrictions on sexual expression in America.

Free Expression in Arts Funding: A Public Policy Report
(2003) - A survey of free-expression policies among state and local arts agencies, including ways of anticipating and dealing with attacks on controversial art. Includes background on the arts funding wars of the 1990s, and candid interviews with agency officials. Read the report in html or pdf.

Not In Front of the Children: "Indecency," Censorship, and The Innocence Of Youth
(2001, 2nd edition 2007) - From Huckleberry Finn to Harry Potter, Internet filters to the v-chip, censorship is often based on the assumption that children and adolescents must be protected from "indecent" speech. In Not In Front of the Children, FEPP Director Marjorie Heins explores the history of indecency laws and other censorship aimed at youth. Not in Front of the Children won the 2002 American Library Association's Eli M. Oboler Award for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.

For Additional Materials on Censorship History, go to the Archives Page.


The Free Expression Policy Project began in 2000 as a project of the National Coalition Against Censorship, to provide empirical research and policy development on tough censorship issues and seek free speech-friendly solutions to the concerns that drive censorship campaigns. In 2004-2007, it was part of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Past funders have included the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Open Society Institute, and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

All material on this site is covered by a Creative Commons "Attribution - No Derivs - NonCommercial" license. (See You may copy it in its entirely as long as you credit the Free Expression Policy Project and provide a link to the Project's Web site. You may not edit or revise it, or copy portions, without permission (except, of course, for fair use). Please let us know if you reprint!