2007 Library News

Oklahoma “Red Scare” Incident Discussed at Metro Libraries

Few people know that Americans’ basic Constitutional right to read what they want was challenged here in Oklahoma City in 1940—and the Constitution won. 

The Metropolitan Library System will be presenting three sessions on this topic led by Wayne A. Wiegand, Professor of American Studies at Florida State University, and Shirley A. Wiegand, Professor of Law at Marquette University, based on their book “Books on Trial: Red Scare in the Heartland.”  The sessions will be held at the Downtown Library, 300 Park Ave., on Sunday, Sept. 30 from 3:30 to 4:30pm, and on Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 6:30 to 7:30pm at the Southern Oaks Library, 6900 S. Walker, and the Edmond Library, 10 S. Boulevard.

“Books on Trial” is the history of an incident that began on July 24, 1940, when an Oklahoma City police detective approached a brick building at 129 West Grand.  The officer went upstairs and walked to the two doors at the back of the building.  “Above one,” the Weigands

wrote in their book, “a sign read ‘Communist Party.’  The second read ‘Progressive Book Store,’ with an arrow pointing (appropriately enough) to the left.”

The policeman bought two copies of the Communist newspaper, “The Daily Worker,” and several pamphlets.  Three weeks later, the owner of the store and everyone who was on the premises at the time were arrested.

“Woody Guthrie, Eleanor Roosevelt and many others protested the event,” said Downtown librarian Darlene Browers.  “We hope that people who are interested in history and care about civil liberties will join us for this ‘Spotlight on OK History’ presentation.  Learn about this little known episode from our city’s history.  Wayne and Shirley will tell the story of what happened when four bookstore proprietors in Oklahoma City were put on trial not for anything they said or did, but for what was in the books they sold.”

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana’s observation about history may be the most famous statement ever written by an American philosopher, and everyone who attends the “Books on Trial” discussions can decide its truthfulness for themselves.

Call 631-4468 to pre-register or for more information.

The Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County includes 12 libraries and five extension libraries.  Libraries include Belle Isle, Capitol Hill, Ralph Ellison, Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library and Southern Oaks in Oklahoma City, as well as Bethany, Choctaw, Del City, Edmond, Midwest City, Village and Warr Acres.  Extensions are located in the communities of Harrah, Jones, Luther and Nicoma Park and include Wright Library in Oklahoma City.  You can also reach us at www.metrolibrary.org.