The Troubled History of Book Bans
Within the last two years, there has been a dire escalation of book bans and censorship in classrooms and school libraries across the United States.
During the 2022-2023 school year, PEN America tracked 3,362 instances of book bans, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year. These book bans affected at least 1,557 unique titles. Since 2021, over 2,823 unique book titles have been banned in public schools across the country.
On October 18, join PEN America Miami/South Florida Chapter, and Stonewall National Museum, Archives, and Library for a censorship-centered discussion. This discussion will include Stonewall Museum and National Archives Executive Director Robert Kesten, the Director of National Outreach and Engagement at PEN America William Johnson, author and historian Dan Royles, and researcher and library administrator Tameka Bradley Hobbs.
This in-person conversation will examine the history of book bans in the United States and offer strategies for navigating our current censorious moment.
William Johnson is the Director of National Outreach and Engagement at PEN America. A longtime steward in the writing community, Johnson was the editor and publisher of Mary Literary, a literary magazine committed to showcasing work of artistic integrity. He also co-produced Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, the first major anthology for queer poets of color in the United States. In 2011, Johnson began his tenure at Lambda Literary, an organization dedicated to promoting LGBTQ literature. As the deputy director of Lambda Literary, Johnson oversaw many of the organization’s most dynamic programs and public events.
Robert Kesten (he/him/his) has worked globally promoting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and furthering democracy. This work has taken many forms including writing and producing an award-winning documentary on learning about the Holocaust at the Concentration Camps in Poland, Working on the Ghanaian Constitution, coordinating and producing events leading to Ukrainian independence, producing events for the first AIDS day treatment center in the nation, pushing for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ukraine (the first Soviet Republic to do so). Kesten comes to Stonewall National Museum, Archives, and Library with national and international experience, taking ideas and bringing them to life.
Tameka Bradley Hobbs is the Library Regional Manager of Broward Public Library’s African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale. She has also worked as a researcher, writer, consultant, and director for a number of public and oral history projects. Her book, Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida, was published by the University Press of Florida and has been awarded a bronze medal for the 2015 Florida Book Award for Florida Nonfiction, and the 2016 Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Award from the Florida Historical Society.
Dan Royles is an Associate Professor of History at Florida International University in Miami, where he teaches courses on United States, African American, LGBTQ, public, and oral history. His first book, To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle against HIV/AIDS, was published in 2020 by the University of North Carolina Press. He also runs the African American AIDS History Project, a digital archive of responses to HIV/AIDS in Black America.