In January, the US public domain expanded to include publications from 1928. Like 2024, 1928 was a leap year, the year of the dragon, the year of a US presidential election, and the Olympics. It was the last full year of what history textbooks commonly call “The Roaring 20s” (typified by, among other things, risk taking in the stock market, short hair and slim silhouettes on women, and luxury automobiles). That fall, Herbert Hoover was elected president, and Charles Curtis (a member of the Kaw Nation and the first Native American to hold such a high office in the United States) was elected vice-president.

While Global Warming was not yet a focal issue, natural disasters most definitely were. The states of the Mississippi Delta were still reeling from the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, to date the most destructive river flood in US history. The displacement of 200,000 African Americans by the flood, and their unequal treatment in refugee camps set up by the Red Cross, contributed to the Great Migration to northern cities, including New York where the Harlem Renaissance (not yet referred to by that name) was in full swing. 

Aviation was all the rage, Charles Lindbergh was selected as Time Magazine’s first Man of the Year, and National Geographic featured Donald E. Keyhoe’s well-photographed article of Lindbergh’s three-month tour of the United States (to celebrate his 1927 flight across the Atlantic). That summer Amelia Earhart completed the first transatlantic flight by a woman passenger (she would not pilot her own solo transatlantic flight until 1932) and quickly becoming a media darling. Following her flight as a passenger, she was appointed Associate Editor of Aviation at Hearst’s International-Cosmopolitan Magazine (where she was also featured in a Lucky Strike ad). 

Literary Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance were both thriving. Literary themes often included explorations of gender, race, feminism, and sexuality. However, censorship was alive, focused on preventing the publication and distribution of books containing certain topics or language. Censorship laws meant that many authors self-censored in order to get their works published; it also meant that authors and publishers were sometimes forced to defend their publications in court. 


Ryder, by Djuna Barnes, with illustrations by the author.

In her first novel, writer and artist Djuna Barnes experimented with censorship as well as text and genre. She signed a contract with her publisher requiring him to cut any parts of her manuscript that would not survive the American censors, and to replace the cut passages with asterisks. In the end, 12 passages and 5 illustrations were cut, see an example here

Dark Princess, a Romance, by W. E. B. Du Bois

Famed sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the founders of the NAACP and the editor of its journal, The Crisis. He was a prolific author best known for his non-fiction works, yet he also found time to write 5 historical novels, including this one, which he considered his favorite among his many works. 

Plum Bun, a Novel Without a Moral, by Jessie Redmon Fauset

In addition to authoring her own works, Jessie Redmon Fauset was the literary editor of The Crisis where she fostered the careers of writers of the Harlem Renaissance. This, her second novel, is a coming of age story about an artistic young woman who temporarily passes for white in an attempt to satisfy her ambitions. This is a similar theme to Nella Larson’s popular 1929 novel Passing, which is already in the public domain due to lack of copyright formalities. Passing is one of the most popular volumes in HathiTrust."Ethiopia at the Bar of Justice" by James Lesesne Wells in The Crisis November 1928 

The Walls of Jerichoby Rudolph Fisher

The first novel by physician, radiologist, singer, and author Rudolf Fisher. It uses humor and satire to look at conflicts within the Black community of Harlem.

The Well of Loneliness, by Radclyffe Hall, with a commentary by Havelock Ellis.

A lesbian novel that, due to publicity surrounding the legal battles over obscenity charges in both the UK and United States, became one of best-known lesbian novels in English. In the UK, it was found to be obscene (although it is not sexually explicit) and copies were ordered to be destroyed. However, it managed to survive court battles in the United States.

Extraordinary Women: Theme and Variations, by Compton Mackenzie.

The 20th novel by this prolific Scottish writer, is a satire featuring mostly women characters, including many lesbians, some of whom are recognizable caricatures of women the author knew. Among these is Radclyffe Hall (see The Well of Loneliness above). However, unlike Hall’s book, MacKenzie’s was not subject to challenges or censorship.

Home to Harlem, by Claude McKay

The first of five novels by Jamaican born poet and novelist Claude McKay, Home to Harlem depicted street-life in Harlem. It became a best-seller and was a winner of the Harmon Award for literature. 

A Mirror for Witches… by Esther Forbes with woodcuts by Robert Gibbings.

The Pulitzer prize winning author of this historical novel, set in the 17th century New England during the witch hunts, is best known for her children’s novel, Johnny Tremain

All Quiet on the Western Front: a Novel, by Erich Maria Remarque (translated from the German by A.W. Wheen)

Written by a German veteran of WWI, the novel describes the trauma experienced by soldiers during the war as well as their difficult transition back to civilian life. It was a bestseller following its publication, but it was later banned and burned by the Nazis.

Orlando; a Biography, by Virginia Woolf

One of her most popular novels, Woolf based the gender-changing protagonist, Orlando, on her friend, lover, and fellow writer Vita Sackville-West.



Venus Invisible: And Other Poems by Nathalia Crane; illustrations by Ruth Jonas.

Natalia Crane (1913 - 1998) was a child prodigy poet. She published her first book of poems, The Janitors Boy, at age 11. Her poem, “The Wings of Lead,” included in this collection, was awarded the First Prize of $500 in the Spirit of St. Louis Contest for the best poem on Lindbergh's flight.

West-running Brook by Robert Frost with woodcuts by J.J. Lankes.

This is the 5th book of poems by the famous 4-time Pulitzer Prize-winning poet of New England fame. The book includes woodcut illustrations by Frost’s lifelong friend and collaborator, J.J. Lankes.

A Play

Strange Interlude, by Eugene O’Neill

This play was a huge success on Broadway and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928. But it was censored or banned in other US cities for dealing openly with adultery and abortion.

Portrait of Eugene O'Neil by Miguel Covarrubias


For Children

The House at Pooh Cornerby A. A. Milne ; with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard.

A. A. Milne’s second book of Pooh stories, in which Tigger joins his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, eats Roo’s medicine, bounces Eeyore into an eddy, and finally enters the public domain too!