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Special Project

Special Project

LeVar Burton x MoveOn: Artists Against Book Bans

Entered in Education


In the summer of 2023, MoveOn kicked off a campaign to combat rising book bans across the country. MoveOn toured a bookmobile across the country with a focus on purple states, distributing banned books and partnering with local organizations, libraries, bookstores, and activists along the way. MoveOn found members across the country were extremely energized and enthusiastically supported and engaged with the campaign. The book bans were a symbol of a larger culture war waged by the far right to censor, control, and erase marginalized communities. Books and stories were an accessible way to reach people on a personal level about the issue.

To punctuate and amplify the campaign and the various petitions with collectively hundreds of thousands of signatures that MoveOn’s book ban campaign already had, the Culture Team at MoveOn organized artists, musicians, writers, performers, and all creatives to band together and denounce rising book bans. Our goals were 1) impact public narrative around book bans in a highly visible way, 2) to raise funds to keep the book ban campaign going, and 3) to generate high energy from large audiences, which we could mobilize toward actions.


We recruited LeVar Burton, literacy icon, to be the leader and face of the complementary campaign, which we called Artists Against Book Bans. We conducted additional outreach to a diverse array of talent, and were able to engage nearly 200 high profile celebrities and influencers, such as Ariana Grande, Amanda Gorman, Rosario Dawson, Bill Nye, Margaret Atwood, Mark Ruffalo, Idina Menzel, Emma Roberts, Gloria Steinem, Billy Porter, W. Kamau Bell, Kerry Washington, Judy Blume, Roxane Gay, Alok, and many more. This was fully volunteer, non-compensated participation for the celebrities and influencers.

The campaign's first goal was to seed a narrative and back it through nearly 200 influential and trusted messengers. We launched an open letter, denouncing book bans a form of censorship, with an exclusive in The Hollywood Reporter. We produced customized graphics for the signatories to share on social media, directing folks to a landing page, where visitors could take action by signing a petition version of the letter. You can read the letter and see the full list of signatories here.

The second goal was to fundraise for MoveOn’s larger anti-book ban work and generate energy. We collaborated with LeVar Burton Entertainment on a merchandise collaboration: an exclusive “Read Banned Books” shirt for Banned Books Week. We worked with designer, Alex Basovskiy, a rising star in the music merch industry. LeVar, along with around 60 celebs and influencers wore the shirt and posted to social media to amplify the message and cause. 

Key takeaways:


We were able to impact the public narrative about the issue in a way that was visible in the press, on social media, and in communities. MoveOn’s media team secured an exclusive with The Hollywood Reporter for the letter launch, and it quickly aggregated across entertainment, music, and political press. It generated hits in 35+ outlets, including People, Book Riot, MSNBC, and The Root. Additionally, the shirt launch attracted an interview in GQ with LeVar Burton and MoveOn’s executive director, Rahna Epting.

We also found that the campaign created breakout energy with our audiences, who mobilized en masse. They mobilized to generate over 58K signatures, and purchased nearly 30,000 shirts, grossing over $1.1 million, which led to additional resources for MoveOn's book ban work and the largest driver of new donations for the entire year. The “Read Banned Books” shirt continues to be MoveOn’s highest grossing and best-selling merch item of all time.

More than 60 influencers and celebrities posted photos of themselves wearing the shirt. The popularity and saturation of the shirt ensured the message hit many eyes. We saw it at red carpet events and parties. We also had multiple high-profile celebrities reach out to our team to ask for a shirt. The total social media metrics are hard to accurately quantify, but we estimate at least several million views, hundreds of thousands likes, thousands of shares.


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