PEN American Center, founded in 1921 is one of the world's oldest human rights organizations and the oldest international literary organization. We work to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. In 2004 we established the World Voices Festival, which takes place annually in New York City, as a place to explore and reinforce our core mission through literary conversations, panels, readings, and performances.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 141 centers of International PEN, the world’s oldest human rights organization and the oldest international literary organization. International PEN was founded in 1921 to dispel national, ethnic, and racial hatreds and to promote understanding among all countries. PEN American Center, founded a year later, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. The Center has a membership of 3,300 distinguished writers, editors, and translators.
In addition to defending writers in prison or in danger of imprisonment for their work, PEN American Center sponsors public literary programs and forums on current issues, sends prominent authors to inner-city schools to encourage reading and writing, administers literary prizes, promotes international literature that might otherwise go unread in the United States, and offers grants and loans to writers facing financial or medical emergencies.
In carrying out this work, PEN American Center builds upon the achievements of such dedicated past members as W. H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.
This year marks the fourth annual World Voices Festival for International Literature.