“The new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult. The memory management enables the voter suppression.”

– Tim Snyder

Censorship and “Memory Laws”: A Danger to

As the experts on authoritarianism warn, censorship and authoritarianism go hand in hand. when those in power whitewash history of its darkest moments, they do far more damage than simply distorting the past. Patterns in history often repeat themselves. The same tools and tactics are used to attack democracy and rights over the generations. So cleansing history of its worst elements dangerously conceals those patterns and tactics even as they make their inevitable return. Putin’s war against Ukrainians provides a horrific case study: long before physical invasion, the Russian government worked to erase independent Ukrainian identity from Russian history texts.

The bottom line: censorship, book-banning, and the politicization of curricula have emerged as the latest front in the attack on democracy. We can and must fight back.

Use Your Whole Footprint to Fight Back

1. Get To the Front Lines

The rise of censorship opens a new front line in the battle for democracy: school boards, library boards, and other institutions that make decisions about curriculum, content, and our collective memories. Just a single member can be the difference between banning Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, or Isabel Wilkerson because one parent or protest demands it, or allowing kids and families the freedom to choose for themselves what to read.

2. Don’t Get Bullied—Advocate!

Don’t let your community—or your local school board—be bullied. If large numbers of residents show up—saying that “all children deserve the freedom to learn the truth of our past, and we trust teachers and ourselves to make these judgments”— you are the ones speaking for the community. And you will straighten out that false narrative fast.

3. Go on Messaging Offense.

Start with values. Take the extremists’ position to its logical conclusion.

Don’t ignore the dog whistle.

Don’t get bullied.

Name the villain. 

Freedom. Parents. Kids. Trust teachers. Given where most Americans already stand on these values and issues, there are so many ways to message them effectively.

4. Use Your Whole Footprint

In response to the aggressive censorship attempts in Florida schools and libraries, organizations an individuals alike took firm steps to counteract these measures and uphold our democratic values. The onus is now on everyone to fight against all forms of censorship: read and share banned materials, support organizations resisting these actions, and utilize individual influence to ensure that accurate, comprehensive history is accessible to everyone. It’s essential for all citizens to challenge the whitewashing of history and protect knowledge and information.

Additional Resources

American Library Association
Florida Freedom to Read Project
Pen America
Honesty for Ohio Education