Brown University has a long history of providing support to international writers facing persecution and suppression of their work. In 1989, following the events at Tian'anmen Square, Literary Arts faculty member Robert Coover, working with then-president of the university Vartan Gregorian, brought three politically endangered Chinese writers to Brown. Over the next several years, additional support allowed Brown to bring two more Chinese writers and a Cuban writer to campus as well.
In 1996, Brown University and Literary Arts (known then as Creative Writing) hosted over a dozen writers from throughout the world, including Salman Rushdie (who was teleconferenced from an undisclosed location), at a Freedom to Write conference on campus. Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes moderated a panel that included representatives from Human Rights Watch and PEN International, as well as exiled writers from Cuba, China, Turkey, and South America. Other visiting fellows at Brown have included Vladimir Ceballos of Cuba and Nuruddin Farah of Somalia.
Brown is a member of the International Academy for Scholarship and the Arts, a consortium of 20 colleges and universities committed to providing support for writers facing political oppression. Through its faculty and alumni, Brown has links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and PEN.