Sixty years ago today, the US Customs, in the person of Collector of Customs, Chester MacPhee, confiscated five-hundred-and-twenty copies of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” – a pivotal moment
“The Collector of Customs, Chester MacPhee, confiscated 520 copies [of Howl ] because, as he said, “The words and the sense of the writing is obscene…you wouldn’t want your children to come across it.” U.S. Customs Law required a Federal Judge, upon application of the U.S. Attorney, to grant permission to destroy the books. But, as [City Lights publisher, Lawrence] Ferlinghetti wisely had sought the assistance of the ACLU prior to sending Howl to the printer in England, and had gotten its assurance of support in defending the book if it was seized, the ACLU notified MacPhee that it was prepared to defend Howl. The U.S. Attorney then decided not to proceed and MacPhee had to release the books,”
resulting in the infamous trial – [on October 3, California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Hall correctly ruled in favor of the defendants, declaring that the poem was indeed of “redeeming social importance”]
“And the rest’s history..”
Looking back at the Howl trial and looking ahead. Saluting freedom of speech and the preservation of civil liberties.