Restricted Access: An American History Of Book Banning | LIVE from NYPL

MSNBC's Ali Velshi explores today's unprecedented wave of book bannings in the context of America’s history of censorship. With a special reading by actor André De Shields. For event details, speaker bios, and more, visit

- André De Shields, reading Toni Morrison
- Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the banned book Speak
- Farah Jasmine Griffin, author of Read Until You Understand
- Whitney Strub, Associate Professor, American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
- Amy Werbel, author of Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock
- moderated by Ali Velshi, host of MSNBC’s Velshi

Censorship and book bans are nothing new in American life. In the 19th century, it was the federal Comstock laws barring the delivery and distribution of “every obscene, lewd, or lascivious” book. Today books that highlight race, gender, or sexuality are being yanked from public shelves around the country. According to the American Library Association, the number of banned and challenged books doubled from 2020 to 2021, reaching the highest number they’ve ever counted.

A panel of authors, scholars, and critics speak with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi to reflect on the current climate around book bans, and to situate our moment within the history of censorship in the United States. Actor André De Shields, one of the stars of the upcoming revival of Death of a Salesman, will open the evening reading a passage from Toni Morrison.

Presented in partnership with PEN America.


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