Freedom of Speech throughout United States HistoryIt’s Champions and Challenges National Constitution Day
The Alien and Sedition Acts • Specifically the Sedition Act (passed in July, 1798 with an expiration date of March 3, 1801) • Made it a crime to publish false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the United States government. • Designed to protect the new government against the undermining capability of criticism from foreign powers; it became a domestic political tool. While never reviewed by the Supreme Court, subsequent references intimate it’s unconstitutionality in light of the 1st Amendment.
Sojourner Truth “Ain’t I a Woman - 1851 • That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it — and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman? Then they talk about this thing in the head; wha’'s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Highlighting the complexity of being an African-American woman at a time when rights for both groups were at different points of progress; her intimations and ability to express those thoughts are emblematic of our 1st Amendment Rights • What challenges could she have faced by speaking out in 1851? • What large event in American History hadn’t yet occurred?
Tinker et al. v. Des Moines Independent Community School District et al. (1969) • This case established the 1st Amendment Rights of students. • In this case, the student act of wearing armbands to protest the Vietnam War was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) • The Supreme Court found that school newspapers that aren’t established as a forum for student opinion have a lower protection of 1st Amendment rights. Schools, can, therefore, censor elements of the newspapers if there is an educational purpose. (subsequently, states have passed laws that protect free press in schools more firmly)
Free Speech Zones • Designed to protect both attendee and protester, 1st Amendment zones have been established at various places and events. (2004 Democratic National Convention as an example)
Contemporary Issues: • Are there any issues in the United States or the World that champion of challenge Free Speech/ Press/ Expression? • How have these events altered your definition of free speech and its importance?