Shelfari edited the description of The Dismissal of Miss Ruth Brown Tuesday, September 15, 2009.
In 1950 Ruth W. Brown, librarian at the Bartlesville Public Library, was dismissed from her job after thirty years of exemplary service, ostensibly because she had circulated subversive materials. In truth, however, Brown was fired because she was active in a group affiliated with the Congress of Racial Equality. This episode in a small Oklahoma town almost a half-century ago is more than a disturbing local event. It exemplifies the strange period of the Cold War known as the McCarthy era, foregrounding those who labored for racial justice, sometimes at great cost, before the civil rights movement. The fundamental issues of the Brown case make it especially pertinent today, when differences--in race, gender, class, and national origin--are again feared, and as challenges to materials in library collections again escalate. Ruth Brown's story helps us understand the matrix of personal, community, state, and national forces that can lead to censorship, intolerance, and the suppression of individual rights.