Twenty-five Years Ago
The New York Court of Appeals banned Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in a 4-3 decision. Judge John F. Scileppi called the controversial 1934 novel “a compilation of a series of sordid narrations dealing with sex in a manner designed to appeal to the prurient interest.” The high courts of Massachusetts and California had recently permitted the book in their states; the latter court compared the obscenity charges against the book to the “incantations of forgotten witch doctors.”
Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union signed the limited nuclear-testban treaty on August 5 in Moscow. The treaty, aimed at reducing the threat of nuclear war and lessening risks from radioactive fallout, prohibited the detonation of nuclear test explosions in the atmosphere, in space, and underwater. It did not ban underground testing, because of unresolvable disputes over verification procedures. In a nationwide television broadcast, President Kennedy declared the treaty “an important first step—a step toward peace—a step toward reason—a step away from war.”
More than two hundred thousand demonstrators gathered in the nation’s capital on August 28 for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Planned by representatives from civil rights organizations, church groups, and organized labor, the march was a peaceful but emphatic call for social reform.
In the South, efforts by blacks and civil rights activists to end segregation of schools, restaurants, and public facilities were meeting with terrorism, lynching, and police brutality. The Kennedy administration’s civil rights record thus far had been more a matter of rhetoric than action. March leaders demanded passage of the proposed Civil Rights Act, the integration of public schools, and new laws barring job discrimination.
The demonstration reached its climax when Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., mounted a podium in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“I have a dream,” King told his listeners, “that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.... that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”