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Founded in 1921, PEN is the world’s oldest ongoing human rights organization and the oldest literary organization. PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN. Its membership of distinguished writers and friends of literature carry on the public service achievements of such past members as W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, John Steinbeck, Susan Sontag, and Arthur Miller.
To defend persecuted and imprisoned writers and journalists, protect the freedom of expression wherever it may be threatened, foster international literary fellowship, and promote the recognition, reading, and translation of contemporary literature.
Through its Freedom to Write Program, PEN American Center fights censorship in the U.S. and abroad and acts to secure the liberty and safety of imprisoned and persecuted writers worldwide. Readers & Writers provides literary arts programs for students from underserved communities in NYC and recently developed a year-round Writing Institue for talented teens. The Translation Program promotes international literature through public readings and the PEN Translation Fund Awards. Prison Writing provides writing instruction and mentoring services to prisoners. The Open Book Program supports writers of color in the publication and promotion of their work and presents the annual Beyond Margins Awards; and the PEN Awards Program annually administers eighteen of the nation’s foremost literary awards. PEN’s public literary programming presents writers and journalists in panel discussions debating current cultural and political challenges, and also introduces exciting foreign writers through conversations and readings with well-known American writers. The annual PEN World Voices: The New York Festival of International Literature brings together the world’s most important writers, many unknown to most Americans, to contribute to a more informed and enlightened world view, both in and of America.
In 2005, PEN’s Freedom to Write Program acted on behalf of 1,010 writers in 95 countries, securing their release from prison, forestalling harsher treatment, or preventing their imprisonment. PEN’s Campaign for Core Freedoms, an intensive advocacy campaign, scored important victories challenging freedom of expression and human rights violations emanating from the USA Patriot Act. The 2006 PEN World Voices Festival gathered 137 writers from 41 countries to participate in 57 events with audience members totaling 10,000. Bill Moyers broadcast a seven-part PBS series, Faith & Reason, based on the Festival featuring many Festival participants and reaching audiences in the millions.
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A Gift Card
Arts and Culture
One year of books
Help PEN bring dynamic teachers and storytellers to thousands of students in underserved New York City public schools through the Readers & Writers program, and provide talented high school students in these schools with unparalleled writing mentoring workshop experiences as part of the program’s Writing Institute. Readers & Writers provides each participant with the books to be covered in the six-week session, and Writing Institute...
Help Persecuted Writers
Endangered Writers Fund
The Emergency Fund for Endangered Writers assists writers in prison and those who are persecuted by providing funds for legal and medical assistance to their families. In the past year, the Emergency Fund has delivered $8,400 in direct financial assistance to writers facing persecution in Afghanistan, Eritrea, The Gambia, Russia, Senegal, and Uzbekistan.
Writers' Fund grants
Support writers in need by contributing to PEN’s Writers’ Fund. Recent grant recipients include: a prize-winning poet who escaped domestic violence and was struggling to support herself, her 19-month-old son, and her mother; an elderly writer of six books, hundreds of articles, and short fiction who, through a Medicare bureaucratic error, was unable to pay for the treatment she needed; and a mid-career novelist and...
Protect Core Freedoms
Advocacy and campaigns
The Whatcom Librarian and her board fought the subpoena which called for the names and identifying information of all those who had borrowed the book since November 15, 2001. The librarian responded by saying, “Libraries are a haven where people should be able to seek what information they want to pursue without any threat of government intervention.” The FBI finally backed down, and PEN conferred...