The University Libraries

Carl Joseph and the Right to Read

727 students, faculty, and community members came to Carlson Library’s Carl Joseph Reading Commons to celebrate the freedom to read yesterday. It was a particularly appropriate place for the 2013 Banned Books Vigil to meet and I asked Barbara Floyd, Director of the Canaday Center and speaker at the Banned Books Vigil to share why:

The Carl Joseph Reading Commons, on the fifth floor of Carlson Library, is dedicated to the memory of Joseph, a student at UT from 1941 to 1942. He was also an outspoken social activist, a labor organizer, and, some claimed, a dangerous radical. He was labeled a Communist, an agitator, and a person whose views were too extreme to be shared with others. Because of his beliefs, some administrators tried to keep him from being admitted to the university. But UT President Philip Nash saw in Carl Joseph a person with views much like his own—a promoter of peace, and a believer in equality and justice. Carl and the president became friends during the time Carl was a UT student.

In 1942, Carl left UT to join the Army as a paratrooper, one of the war’s most dangerous duties. While training overseas, he would buy books for UT’s library and send them back to President Nash. He told President Nash that he sought “to do my job as a soldier so well that the fellow on my right and the fellow on my left will have a chance of coming through alive.”

On D-Day, Carl Joseph parachuted behind enemy lines, and was shot by a German sniper. The man who was viewed by some as dangerous because of his strong beliefs was killed protecting the rights of others to think, believe, and read whatever they want. As we celebrate the right to read during Banned Books Week, let us not forget the price some pay to preserve that right.

is UT’s Business and Economics Librarian. She passionately believes in connecting students to information. In the library this often means finding and evaluating books and articles as important steps in the decision making process, but it really includes so much more.
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