Founded in New York City in 1922, the PEN American Center is an organization of writers who work “to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship.” The organization is one of the largest centers of International PEN, the human rights organization founded in 1921.

PEN (referring to poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists) advances its causes through various programs, including Freedom to Write and Prison Writing. For fifteen years, the organization has awarded annually a PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment award to a person or persons who have fought courageously for First Amendment values despite adversity. The group’s Children’s Book Author Committee is in the forefront of opposition to book banning and censorship.

PEN has been vocal in opposing many provisions of the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress in 2001. In October 2006, PEN delivered a “press freedom petition” to Congress, urging members to combat what the organization terms a “deeply troubling...campaign of intimidation against American newspapers and journalists” and excessive secrecy on the part of the government.

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