Freedom of Speech Throughout U.S. History

Freedom of Speech
throughout United
States History
It’s Champions and Challenges
National Constitution Day
The Alien and Sedition
• 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
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
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
Contemporary Issues:
• Are there any issues in the United States or the World
that champion of challenge Free Speech/ Press/
• How have these events altered your definition of
free speech and its importance?