As Banned Books Week is the last partial week of September and into October, which is National Stamp Collecting Month, let's look at which authors featured on U.S. stamps have had their work banned. In truth, banned may be a bit of a strong term for books that have been questioned or challenged and temporarily taken off library shelves mostly in isolated cases on the local level.
On Librarian.net former ALA Councilor Jessamyn West wrote that "...the bulk of these books are challenged by parents for being age-inappropriate for children. While I think this is still a formidable thing for librarians to deal with, it's totally different from people trying to block a book from being sold at all."
As parents are often the ones crying about literature that is inappropriate for their offspring, they often attract conservative groups like Focus on the Family for support, who protest that the ALA in allegedly overstating things, also makes it possible for books dealing with pro-gay and sexually explicit topics to impact young children.
The USPS's Banned Authors on Stamps
As for stamps commemorating literature there is a safe bunch (none of those nasty Beat writers like Kerouac or Ginsberg, thanks) that have been released by the USPS, although the work of most of these commemorated writers has been challenged. It begins with Twain, whose Tom Sawyer got the Norman Rockwell treatment on a stamp back in the 60s and who faced suppression for what some modern critics cite as his racist depiction of African Americans. The author himself has appeared on two U.S. stamps.
Two of the greatest banning cases of the mid-twentieth century involved two books about southern life, set in very different times. Erskine Caldwell's God's Little Acre was too hot for those who would censor literature and a court case was brought about by Caldwell's arrest and claims from the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice that the book was obscene and pornographic. Naturally all this made the novel even more popular before achieving its notoriety.
Also affecting the action of censorship was the depiction of residents of the southern U.S. as either buffoonish hayseeds or beings guided not by their heads, but by their hearts and various other organs which usually served only to get them into trouble.
Interestingly, neither Caldwell nor the novel have been commemorated on a U.S. stamp though many authors who have had censors try to suppress their works of literature -- in the U.S. or elsewhere -- have suffered a fate that in the long run frequently only adds to the sales of their books. Caldwell's book has sold around ten million copies.
A Much Banned Classic, Recognized on Stamps
Another book of the South, one that with it's filmic adaptation created the image of the Civil War era south that generations have held in mind, was of course the bestseller Gone With the Wind. The book was temporarily banned for racism, sexuality (activity in a brothel), and earthy language. No matter though, as the book's author, Margaret Mitchell was commemorated on a USPS stamp in the Great Americans series in 1986 and the book itself was pictured on a stamp from the Celebrate The Century series. The classic film made from her novel received its own stamp in 1990.
In another example of a film from a novel gaining postal commemoration, To Kill a Mockingbird has been indirectly commemorated on a postage stamp through the appearance of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the lawyer in Harper Lee's tale of murder, justice and coming of age in the south.
Writers commemorated on USPS stamps whose works have been "banned":
John Steinbeck banned for The Grapes of Wrath and others; playwright Tennessee Williams work banned multiple times for subject matter considered taboo in its day, especially A Streetcar Named Desire and Baby Doll; Thomas Paine's Rights of Man banned in the U.K. for treason; Harriet Beecher Stowe's Civil War era classic Uncle Tom's Cabin banned in the South for its anti-slavery stance.
Other writers appearing on USPS stamps who have had their work "banned" for various reasons include Dr. Seuss, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack London.
Deserving special mention is science fiction/fantasy author Ray Bradbury, who doesn't appear on a U.S. stamp, but is on one from the Republic of Guinea. His landmark novel Fahrenheit 451 ups the ante on book banning as it deals with actual book burning. As the powers that be in his story want no one to read and find information that varies from the government controlled info stream those found with books are dealt with harshly.