Books on Trial: Red Scare in the HeartlandShirley A. Wiegand and Wayne A. Wiegand
Above all, Books on Trial reminds us how very easy it is for those in power to crush the constitutional rights and freedoms of others – people with harmless, but unpopular, beliefs. In 1940, in the guise of protecting the state, the Oklahoma City police raided the Progressive Bookstore, imprisoning its owners and its customers. Their crime? Selling or reading books about communism, including such fun-damental works of political philosophy as Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s State and Revolution. During the course of the many trials that ensued, it was revealed that the defendants were “suspect” not only because they read books about unpopular ideas but also because they were involved in organizing workers, promoting trade unions, and working for racial equality. This cautionary tale demonstrates how overzealous “protection” from unpopular ideas threatens the very basis of our democracy and reminds us of how vigilant we must be in preserving intellectual freedom for all members of our society.