Hentoff on Book Burning in Cuba
Thanks to a long-time reader for letting me know about this July 23 piece from Nat Hentoff. Published by Jewish World Review, Hentoff's article discusses the Cuban library demonstration at ALA Annual in June:
The caged independent librarians were, however, at the center of a protest at an American Library Association conference in Washington in June. These protesters are themselves long-term members of the ALA and call themselves Freadomistas, in contrast with Fidelistas (Castro admirers) on the ALA's governing council. That council steadfastly refuses to demand the immediate release of Cuban freedom-to-read librarians, whom Amnesty International designates "prisoners of conscience." Indeed, the council voted down an amendment to release them.
Bearing such signs as "Book Burning Is NOT A solution to Cuba's Energy Problems" and "Ray Bradbury (author of 'Fahrenheit 451') Says: 'Free The Jailed Librarians,'" the Freadomistas also handed out flyers that quoted the core ALA policy: "The American Library Association believes that freedom of expression is an inalienable human right ... vital to the resistance of oppression ... and the principles of freedom of expression should be applied by libraries and librarians throughout the world." Another ALA policy cited on the flyers "deplores the destruction of libraries, library collections and property."
Yet, as I have reported previously, the ALA ignores that Cuban court documents (validated by Amnesty International and the Organization of American States) reveal that the entire collections of at least six independent libraries were ordered destroyed.
Among the burned publications are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (not surprisingly); a book on Martin Luther King Jr.; the U.S. Constitution; and a volume by Jose Marti, the father of Cuban independence, who was killed by the Spanish during that struggle to free Cuba.
The fate of these books and, even more importantly, those who tried to distribute them, is well worth keeping in mind during Banned Books Week.