ACLU agreed to defend Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" against obscenity charges

On April 3, 1957, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agreed to defend Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl and Other Poems against any obscenity charges brought against it. Publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti planned to publish in the US, but lacked the funds to challenge existing and future obscenity claims, so he delayed publication until he had secured representation. ACLU lawyer Al Bendich successfully defended Ferlinghetti in California Superior Court, bringing forth nine literary experts and convincing the judge that the work had literary merit. The decision came just months after Roth v. United States, where the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protected literature, but not obscenity.

Learn more about obscenity and indecency from the JURIST news archive.

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