Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Black History Month & The First Amendment

February is Black History Month, a period of time each year that we more vociferously celebrate the accomplishments of prominent figures and significant events in African American history (and sometimes the present). This year the NAACP celebrates African American women past and present.

Given events over the past year (and more) it seemed worth considering the intersection of Black History and First Amendment Rights.

Free Speech and Freedom of the Press

Ida B. Wells was a journalist, newspaper editor, anti-lynching activist, suffragist, and women's rights advocate.  A muckraker and investigative journalist, Wells used her Memphis paper, The Free Press, to expose the fraudulent 'reasons' white supremacists used to rationalize the lynching of black men.  She moved to Chicago, and continued publishing editorials on racial injustices, when her newspaper office was destroyed in retaliation.  Learn more about Ida B. Wells:

In 1960 a full-page advertisement ran in The New York Times seeking to raise funds to support Martin Luther King, Jr. defend against a perjury case brought against him.  The advertisement also described a "wave of terror" of police actions against peaceful demonstrators in Montgomery, AL.  L.B. Sullivan sued The New York Times for libel, claiming, amongst other things, the advertisement exaggerated and included inaccuracies. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, its ruling stating that "Free and open debate about the conduct of public officials, the Court reasoned, was more important than occasional, honest factual errors that might hurt or damage officials’ reputations."  Learn more about The New York Times v. Sullivan by looking up the case in Lexis Nexis and with these books:

Freedom to Assemble

A photo posted by Jae Spivey (@jaespivey) on Dec 13, 2014 at 12:38pm PST

The freedom to assemble afforded by the First Amendment has been central to civil rights struggles of the past and present. Here are just a few of the books available through Armacost Library related to the protest, marches, sit-ins that fall under the freedom of assembly:

The Black Revolution on Campus;

Student Activism and Civil Rights in Mississippi: Protest Politics and the Struggle for Racial Justice, 1960-1965;

For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights;

Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising;

Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riots of 1992...

If you haven't seen the movie yet, go see Selma this week (just a few more days at the Krikorian, Redlands).

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