Deep literacy and access to knowledge

For over half a century, City Lights Books — a bookstore-publishing company founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953 — has demonstrated a continuing commitment to preserving and promoting the diversity of voices and ideas that are represented in quality books. Now, as information technologies change the way people live, work, and think, we are convinced of the need to nurture and protect peoples’ ability to think critically, to discern truth, and to communicate knowledge. We believe that these qualities are basic to an empowered citizenry, essential to the future of a democratic society.

With this in mind, we have formed the City Lights Foundation, a non-profit cultural and educational foundation with the goal of advancing deep literacy. Much more than simply being able to read and write, to be literate is to be educated, competent, cultured, and knowledgeable, and thus enabled to live fully and with dignity, to actively shape one’s individual and communal reality, both present and future.

We believe that writers and poets can change society through their creative work, which has the power to stimulate new ways of thinking about contemporary issues. We are committed to promoting and providing equal access to ideas and cultural resources, across generations, class lines, and ethnic and cultural boundaries. Our work is to foster independent thinking and intellectual courage, and the intention of all of our programs and publications is to contribute to the creation of a progressive social vision.


City Lights Foundation will:
  • Promote democratic access to knowledge and cultural resources;  
  • Develop programs for young people that will nurture their ability to write and speak;
  • Extend creative opportunities to underserved communities;
  • Build links between writers, activists and educators to create public awareness of the importance of critical thinking;
  • Promote the importance of literary arts in creating and conveying a progressive social vision.