Freedom of Expression and Social Justice in American History

Lecture Description

American history has been marked by vigorous written and spoken protests.  Even before there was as First Amendment social activists such as Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, John Peter Zenger, John Woolman, and Thomas Paine have asserted the right to speak freely, in speeches and in print.  Following the Revolution to the end of the Nineteenth century, freedom of speech was the vehicle for opponents of slavery and racism, supporters of women’s suffrage, labor organizers, and founders of new religions. In the Twentieth century, opponents of child labor, supporters of women’s rights, supporters of industrial reform and workers’ rights, opponents of war, environmentalists, advocates for equality have all competed (and often succeeded) in the marketplace of ideas.  The great civil rights movement of the mid-Twentieth century was rooted in free speech and the right to protest.  Justice Brandeis asserted that “to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” This lecture explores this history raises the question if traditional notion of free speech remains viable in the age of the internet, cable t.v., and changing methods of technology.


Constitutional and Legal Social Movements

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