Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Books On Trial

Last night I attended a event at the Kansas City Public Library in with authors Shirley & Wayne Wiegand presented a factual account of a historic 1940 incident in which Oklahoma County officials confiscated the entire contents of a local bookstore then put the proprietors and patrons of the store on trial not for anything they did, but for the contents of the books on their store shelves.

The story of their arrest, conviction and the battle for some three years to get their convictions overturned is an interesting and chilling one. The implications of this care are far reaching when considered against some of our government's actions today. Not only were these individuals victims of the governments fear of communists, but the basic fundamental rights of our constitution were victims as well.

I was especially surprised how significant racial overtones were in the prosecution of this case. I know Oklahoma is a southern state, but not the deep south, and none of the defendants were black. It was their association with civil rights issues that were paraded before the jury.

Over the next three years, the public outcry as news of this case spread throughout the U.S. ultimately sent this matter to a appellate court and the convictions were overturned. Libraries and Universities throughout the country cited that they were likely equally guilty based on the fact that many of the books the prosecution cited in their case were on their shelves as well. No evidence of any subversive or violent actions by the defendants to overthrow the government were ever presented. It was all purely based on the contents of the bookstore and the inflammatory suggestions that these individuals would dare suggest that blacks and whites have equal rights.

It is a story worth reading. The book: Books on Trial - Red Scare in the Heartland - authors Shirley & Wayne Wiegand

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