Entangled Histories: Free Speech & Civil Rights from the 1960’s to Today

 How has the First Amendment been invoked to help or to hinder the progress of civil rights? This discussion examined how the mid-1960s were a turning point not only for the Civil Rights movement, but also for the history of free speech in the U.S. From the Civil Rights Act to landmark Supreme Court decisions, the boundaries of the First Amendment were tested in ways that affected civil rights in the decades following.

Video Highlights

  • 7:19 Listen to moderator DeJuana L. Thompson introduce the three panelists.
  • 11:50 Listen to Carlos Ball discuss three Supreme Court cases from the Civil Rights era centering on free speech and equality.
  • 19:20 Listen to Ball discuss two early Supreme Court cases concerning LGBTQ free speech.
  • 26:42 Listen to Tara Y. White discuss Black women’s central role in Civil Rights era organizing and protests in Birmingham.
  • 37:10 Listen to Michael Harriot discuss how the First Amendment is often weaponized against Black people by the state.
  • 1:23:48 Listen to Ashley M. Jones read and sign a closing poem.

From the archives

Primary Sources

Further Reading

Contributing Scholars:

DeJuana Thompson, President and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Carlos A. Ball,Distinguished Professor of Law and Judge Frederick Lacey Scholar, Rutgers Law School

Michael Harriot, political commentator and columnist at theGrio.com and The Guardian

Dr. Tara Y. White, Assistant Professor of History, University of North Carolina-Wilmington

With poetry readings by Alabama’s Poet Laureate and PEN Birmingham chapter co-director Ashley M. Jones