Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Libraries--Censorship--United States--History; Pornography--Censorship--United States--History; Pornography--Law and legislation--United States--History; Obscenity (Law)--United States--History; American Library Association--History; United States. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography--History; United States. Supreme Court--History;


There was a time when accessing pornographic and obscene materials was much more difficult than it is today. Prosecuted in 1868, Regina v. Hicklin was the first known obscenity case tried under the Obscene Publications Act in Great Britain. The United States Supreme Court first addressed obscenity in the 1957 case of Roth v. United States and grappled with setting standards or creating criteria by which obscenity could be defined. In the 1960s, multiple proposals for federal legislation to crack down on obscenity were offered. The American Library Association (ALA) stepped in to voice its concern and provide professional input in the debate over obscenity. The ALA's central tenets of librarianship are freedom of speech and freedom from censorship. This was evident with the creation of the "Library Bill of Rights" in 1948 and the "Freedom to Read Statement" in 1953. To address the various facets of obscenity and pornography in a comprehensive way, Congress enacted legislation that established the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in 1967.

This thesis will explore the political and legal impact of the creation, the duties, and the findings of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. It will examine the final report issued by the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography in September of 1970 and probe the myriad reactions to the Commission's most controversial recommendation: "that federal, state, and local legislation prohibiting the sale, exhibition, or distribution of sexual materials to consenting adults should be repealed." Why did this specific recommendation cause such controversy? What impact did it have on later Supreme Court opinions involving obscenity and the First Amendment? What impact did it have on library practices and how did the ALA respond? By examining these issues, this thesis will help to define the effects of obscenity and pornography between the late 1960s and the early 1980s. In addition, this thesis briefly discusses the 1986 Meese Commission and the current definition and regulation of obscenity and pornography.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

John W. Johnson, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 147 pages)



File Format