Censorship: 1934

19341934Doors to Coit Tower are padlocked because the San Francisco Art Commission objects to leftwing murals being painted by leading California artists under the auspices of the WPA.

Censorship: 1939

Cover art for the first edition of The Grapes of WrathCover art for the first edition of The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck’s best-selling novel The Grapes of Wrath is censored by officials in Kern County – the very region that he wrote about. Only after a fight led by civil libertarians, trade unionists, clergy and the local librarian was the book restored to the library shelves. 

Censorship: 1941

Refregier muralRefregier muralArtist Anton Refregier is selected to paint murals depicting California history on the walls of Rincon Annex post office; the work is interrupted by World War II, and resumed in 1948.

Censorship: 1950

ACLU of Northern California executive director Ernest Besig sues the U.S. customs service over censorship of Henry Miller’s erotic novels Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn; the courts rule against him in 1951 and 1953.

Censorship: 1953

Refregier Sandlot Riots muralRefregier Sandlot Riots muralA congressional hearing, supported by Vice-President Richard Nixon, is held to determine whether the Refregier murals should be removed from Rincon Annex because of their “unpatriotic” content.

Censorship, LGBT Rights: 1954

Cover of the October 1954 issue of ONECover of the October 1954 issue of ONEFBI agents interrogate the staff of the gay magazine ONE; Los Angeles Postmaster confiscates the October 1954 issue of ONE, alleging that it is "obscene." ONE sues the postmaster, and the case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958.

Censorship: 1957

Lawrence FerlinghettiLawrence FerlinghettiSan Francisco police officers arrest City Lights bookstore owner Lawrence Ferlinghetti and bookseller Shigeyoshi Murao on obscenity charges for selling copies of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and other Poems. The ACLU of Northern California defends them, and rallies the literary community in support. Judge Clayton Horn finds Ferlinghetti not guilty.


Hear Allen Ginsberg read part of “Howl:"


Censorship, LGBT Rights: 1958

In ONE Inc. v. Olsen, the first case before the U.S. Supreme Court dealing with homosexuality, the high court rules that homosexual content does not automatically make a publication “obscene.”

Censorship: 1961

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy determines that customs and postal officials cannot block distribution of Henry Miller’s novels.

Censorship: 1962

Los Angeles booksellers are charged with obscenity under a state law for selling Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer to an undercover police cadet.


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