Tag: book bans

PORTUGAL. THE MAN, Live with Banned Books Week & NCAC!

Join the Banned Books Week Coalition and the National Coalition Against Censorship at 6:00 p.m. EDT, September 29, for an exclusive Facebook Live event with Grammy Award-winning musicians and free expression heroes Portugal. The Man! The event celebrates Banned Books Week, which takes place September 23 – October 3, 2020, and will broadcast live on the NCAC Facebook page

In early 2020, Portugal. The Man joined the protest when the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board, which oversees schools in the band’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, voted to remove five classic novels — I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien — from the 11th grade reading list. Through their charitable non-profit, PTM Foundation, Portugal. The Man helped provide thousands of copies of the banned books to students in the district.

During this hourlong livestream, we’ll talk with Portugal. The Man about why they took action, the role of communities in fighting censorship, and the importance of access to information. We’ll close with a short Q&A. The event will be moderated by Nora Pelizzari (Director of Communications, NCAC) and Betsy Gomez (Coordinator, Banned Books Week Coalition).

How will this work?

  1. Make sure you like the National Coalition Against Censorship on Facebook.
  2. At 6:00 p.m. EDT on September 29, go to Facebook and look at the News Feed.
  3. Click Watch in the Navigation Panel on the left. (Click See More if you don’t see Watch in the list.)
  4. After clicking Watch, click Live in the Navigation Panel on the left.

You can also go directly to facebook.com/live to access Facebook livestreams or the video section of NCAC’s Facebook page to access the event.


Portugal. The Man took 2017 by the horns after a considerably long gap between records. They spent years working on an album called Gloomin + Doomin before later developing what would become known as their latest studio album WOODSTOCK. Fate struck lead singer John Gourley twice. First, John got some parental tough love from his old man. “What’s taking so long to finish the album?” John’s dad asked. “Isn’t that what bands do? Write songs and then put them out?” The whole thing got John thinking about why the band seemed to be stuck on a musical elliptical machine from hell and more importantly, about how to get off of it. Second, John found his dad’s ticket stub from the original 1969 Woodstock music festival, which ultimately knocked something loose in his head. He realized that, in the same tradition of bands from that era, Portugal. The Man needed to speak out about the world crumbling around them.

With these two ideas converging, the band made a seemingly bat-shit-crazy decision: they took all of the work they had done for the three years prior and threw it out. The band went back to the studio — working with John Hill, Danger Mouse and longtime collaborator Casey Bates. In this new-found creative territory, the album that became WOODSTOCK rolled out naturally from there. Fast forward to present day and it was impossible to escape the album’s first single, “Feel It Still,” which dominated the charts and radio airwaves in 2017. The 4X Platinum Certified hit reigned at #1 at nearly all radio formats, including Top 40, as well as Alternative, where the song held the chart’s top spot for a mind-blowing 20 weeks, breaking the record for most weeks at #1. Yes, you read that right. Five guys from Wasilla, Alaska, who have played nearly 1,500 shows in their career, broke Alternative radio records and had a #1 song at Pop radio. Billboard Magazine even went as far as to call the song “the unexpected rock crossover hit of 2017,” while Rolling Stone listed it as “one of the best songs of 2017.” AND THEN…the band kicked off 2018 by winning a GRAMMY Award for “Feel It Still.”

About the PTM Foundation

PTM Foundation is focused on building community resilience, empathy, and awareness through music, stories, art, education and connectivity. They aim to convene and organize partnerships and projects informed by community need, then mobilize Portugal. The Man’s listeners and supporters around that shared vision.

While their advocacy, philanthropy, and community engagement work is primarily centered around universal issues related to human rights, community health, and the environment, this organization puts a specific focus on highlighting the stories of Indigenous Peoples, and they are committed to helping bring these sacred voices — often the most informed, yet silenced among us — to the forefront.

About the National Coalition Against Censorship

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) promotes freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression and opposes censorship in all its forms. Since 1974, NCAC has engaged in direct advocacy, education, research and analysis to support the principles of the First Amendment. A coalition of over 50 national non-profits, NCAC’s alliance includes literary, artistic, education, and civil liberties groups. NCAC is national in scope, but often local in their approach, engaging with a nationwide network of advocates and supporting local activism. NCAC works with community members to resolve censorship controversies without the need for litigation.

About the Banned Books Week Coalition

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship. 

The Banned Books Week Coalition includes American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People For the American Way Foundation; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from DKT Liberty Project and Penguin Random House.

PEN America Examines Book Bans in U.S. Prisons

In a new policy paper, the literary and human rights organization PEN America showcases the impact of the nation’s most pernicious book ban: the system of restrictions that exist across U.S. prisons, jails, and other incarceration settings. Some 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated across the country.  Against that backdrop, Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban details the types of book bans prisoners face, the arbitrariness with which they are implemented, and the lack of transparency and oversight that leads to bans on titles from Nobel Prize winners and leading historical figures. The publication of this paper comes amid PEN America’s Literature Locked Up initiative for Banned Books Week 2019.

“This year, as the country focuses on unfair and arbitrary book bans nationwide, we wanted to focus on the pernicious ban on books in the nation’s prisons,” said James Tager, author of the report and PEN America’s deputy director of free expression policy and research. “Literature offers a lifeline for incarcerated people in the midst of a dehumanizing system. We should be promoting access to literature in our prisons. Instead, our policies today are arbitrary, irrational, and at times needlessly cruel. We urgently need a course correction that upholds the right to read behind bars.”

Among the paper’s highlights:

  • PEN America reports that literature on race and civil rights is disproportionately subject to bans, often on the grounds that such texts threaten to disrupt a prison’s social order. Often entire categories of books are banned, and these often reflect discriminatory approaches to regulation.
  • PEN America also found that review mechanisms fail to offer meaningful oversight over these bans. While the U.S. Supreme Court has established that prisons must provide some form of administrative appeal process, there is no requirement that such reviewers are independent of the prison system, nor are there any criteria regarding reviewers’ qualifications.
  • PEN America also explores how in addition to content-specific bans, prison systems have enacted wholesale restrictions on book deliveries, such as requiring purchases come only through “secure vendors,” as well as shutdowns on book donations and deliveries writ large. PEN America finds that these “content-neutral bans” have the effect of banning potentially thousands of titles by significantly limiting the range of books available to people who are incarcerated.

While no comprehensive list exists of all books banned in jails and prisons within the U.S., tens of thousands of titles are banned outright based on outmoded or misguided attempts to regulate behavior. The carceral system in Texas, for example, has reportedly banned more than 10,000 titles, including Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. But perhaps more insidious, the paper finds that bans are often ad hoc, purely at the discretion of mailroom employees or corrections officers who happen to be on duty, constituting a wider and more arbitrary landscape of restrictions that is often invisible to the public.

“Because these book bans are rarely reviewable and seldom overturned voluntarily, the only recourse incarcerated people have is public outrage,” said PEN America’s Tager. “Every time book bans are overturned, it’s because people on the inside and advocates on the outside have urged prison systems to make changes. But the system is opaque and banned book lists are unavailable. We can’t rely on public outrage alone to ensure that the rights of people in prison aren’t routinely violated. That practice has to end.”

PEN America recommends that prison systems follow the American Library Association’s Prisoners’ Right to Read – Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights principles as a guide. PEN America also urges state and federal officials to implement periodic review of book restriction policies; develop clear and non-discriminatory policies governing such restrictions; encourage prison authorities to consider the educational, literary, and rehabilitative merit of texts; make any banned book list available and accessible; and most crucially, enact meaningful review policies.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. PEN America is a member of the Banned Books Week Coalition.

PEN is hosting a Literature Locked Up event today:


Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm EDT

Join Scuppernong Books on Tuesday, September 24 to celebrate banned and challenged books from around the world. In honor of Banned Books Week 2019, the event will feature readings of banned books and involve the Scuppernong’s Young Adult Book Club, as well as the general public, with an educational component around PEN America’s Literature Locked Up campaign and provide an opportunity for participants to sign a petition calling for the right to read in American prisons. Find out more »