NEW YORK – The National Coalition Against Censorship defends freedom of expression, including the right to access ideas, even when they offend the majority. Therefore, we support Amazon’s decision to sell From Hebrews to Negroes: Wake up Black America, a book and video by Ronald Dalton Jr. that have been accused of promoting conspiracy theories and antisemitism. The title has attracted global attention in recent weeks, first for its promotion on Twitter by Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving, and now through a public letter addressed to Amazon and Barnes & Noble that calls for the removal of the title from their sales platforms. (Barnes & Noble subsequently withdrew the challenged works.)
In 1953, during the McCarthy era, publishers and librarians drafted ”The Freedom to Read,” a statement that sets forth principles that establish a foundation for intellectual freedom. It declares, ““It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority….Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.”
The statement authors acknowledged that these principles protect the dissemination of ideas that many would find “repugnant.” They concluded, “We do not state these propositions in the comfortable belief that what people read is unimportant. We believe rather that what people read is deeply important; that ideas can be dangerous; but that the suppression of ideas is fatal to a democratic society. Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.”
National Coalition Against Censorship
Since its inception in 1974, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) has functioned as a first responder in protecting freedom of expression, a fundamental human right and a keystone of democracy. Representing 59 trusted education, publishing, and arts organizations, NCAC encourages and facilitates dialogue between diverse voices and perspectives, including those that have historically been silenced.