PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, International PEN, which was founded in 1921 in direct response to the ethnic and national divisions that contributed to the First World War. PEN American Center was founded in 1922, since when its programs have reached out to the world and into diverse communities within the United States. PEN's programming promotes writing and literature at every level and are founded on the belief that free expression is an essential component of every healthy society. Throughout its 90-year history, PEN American Center has remained a writer-centered organization in which members play a leading role. PEN presidents, such as Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Susan Sontag, and Salman Rushdie, continue to place themselves at the forefront of the struggle to oppose censorship and defend writers.
A grant from the Cultures of Resistance Network supported the September 2008 event, "Reading Burma: A Benefit for Cyclone Relief and Freedom of Expression in Burma/Myanmar."