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PEN America Florida

Who We Are

PEN America’s Miami office was established in 2023 to address the rampant free expression infringements in Florida. The Miami office works throughout the state of Florida to secure academic freedom and free expression and celebrate the written word without censorship. PEN America Florida expands the organization’s footprint, equipping it to advance free expression policy priorities in a state that is leading the country in efforts to curtail free speech and expression.

Florida overtook Texas during the last school year by banning more books in public school classrooms and libraries than any other state, according to PEN America’s data. Florida now ranks first in the nation and accounts for more than 40% of all documented bans. The state’s speech-constricting laws, policies, and book bans have become a template for conservative activists and lawmakers behind the movement that has led to nearly 6,000 instances of book bans since 2021. Books about race and by authors of color, along with topics focused on sexual orientation and gender are most frequently ripped from shelves, robbing students of the diversity of ideas and perspectives they need in a pluralistic society.

PEN America has been at the forefront of documenting and defending against this spreading censorship—unseen since the 1950s McCarthy-era Red Scare. The PEN America Florida office will allow the organization to expand this work to ensure that Florida is a bastion of free expression and academic freedom.

Our Impact

The PEN America Florida office works on multiple fronts to launch advocacy strategies across the state to not only counter the Florida legislature’s attempts to impede First Amendment freedoms, but also seeks to affirmatively secure Florida as a home to free expression and robust academic excellence. 

The PEN America Florida team applies legal advocacy, policy and legislative initiatives, and community organizing to move the needle in Florida. The team approaches this work understanding that Florida is being used as a blueprint for censorious extremism across the country. Our mission is to change this trajectory and ensure that Florida serves as an example not of extremism but of freedom and democracy.

Support Our Florida Work

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Unified Voices Summit

We are coming together for the first annual Unified Voices Summit: Protecting Educational Freedom in Florida to celebrate our educators, protect public education, and speak out in one voice to defend our rights of free speech and free expression. We will unite to end education censorship and book bans, and to support our teachers, public education and our core constitutional liberties.

We will convene in Orlando, Florida on July 12-13th, 2024.

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Our Research

This white paper will explore how Florida arrived at this place; the first signs of progress in reversing this rights rollback; and where we can hope and expect Florida to go from here

READ OUR REPORT

Florida Effect 50 50

Florida’s policies and legislative proposals have been picked up and replicated around the nation, providing a governance blueprint for how to suppress large portions of Americans’ speech in the name of prosecuting the new culture war.

READ OUR REPORT

Advocacy

PEN America Helps Win Victories Against Censorship in Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session

PEN America Helps Win Victories Against Censorship in Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session

PEN America had a direct hand in making sure several Florida “culture war” bills failed without becoming law, keeping censorship from infringing on free speech and free expression.
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PEN America Florida's Legislative Priorities 2024

PEN America Florida's Legislative Priorities 2024

These bills would further undermine basic Constitutional rights, a trend that PEN America is fighting in federal court through its lawsuit on book bans against Escambia County.
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PEN America v. Escambia County School District

PEN America v. Escambia County School District

This lawsuit brings together authors whose books have been banned and parents and students in the district who cannot access the books in a first of its kind challenge to unlawful censorship.
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News & Commentary

PEN America Speaks: How We Defended and Celebrated Free Expression The Week of April 1

April 5, 2024
PEN America works tirelessly to defend free expression, support persecuted writers, and promote literary culture. Here are some of the latest ways PEN America is speaking out.

New PEN America Analysis Points to Cracks in Florida’s Censorship Campaign

April 3, 2024
Katie Blankenship, director of PEN America’s Florida office, said: “By continuing to pass bills that are a knife to the heart of our Constitutional protections, Florida lawmakers are not only willing to attack the rights that Americans hold sacred but they are also wasting taxpayer dollars to try to uphold them. As these costs to the taxpayer continue to mount, responsible legislators will hopefully realize that they are burning their constituents’ money and trust.”

PEN America Helps Win Victories Against Censorship in Florida’s 2024 Legislative Session

March 14, 2024
PEN America had a direct hand in making sure several Florida “culture war” bills failed without becoming law, keeping censorship from infringing on free speech and free expression.
Read more
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Join Us

Free to Be Florida is a statewide network of parents, teachers, students, and public interest organizations who believe Florida’s children deserve a safe learning environment free from government overreach and censorship. 

The network seeks to not only build community engagement to fight back against censorship and discrimination in Florida, but also brings individuals and groups together across the state to collaborate and effectuate state-wide strategies.

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