First Amendment Essay series intro

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. – Constitution of the United States, Amendment I

Americans exercise their First Amendment rights every day through a variety of forums. As historians of the mass media, we may be most concerned with the rights of a free press, but the amendment covers the rights of all Americans to exercise their respective religions, speak, assemble, and petition.

Very frequently, these rights are questioned. Should hate speech be protected? What about the rights of non-citizens on American soil? Can the government curtail those rights in times of crisis? What actually constitutes a violation of the First Amendment?

This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of a pivotal year in First Amendment history, when the Supreme Court decided upon several cases related to the World War I-era Espionage Act. The decisions in those famous cases helped shape our understanding of the First Amendment from a legal standpoint.

In recognition of that important year a century ago, the Journalism History website will publish seventeen essays exploring various First Amendment issues throughout history. These essays will shed light on important moments in the evolution of free expression and provide historical context for the First Amendment issues we face today.

The original call for essays indicated that one essay would be published each month of 2019, but the response was so overwhelming and many of the submissions so excellent that some months will have two essays. Following is the schedule of essays to appear. As each essay is posted, it will be linked on this page to provide a table of contents for future reference.

Feb. 12: Timothy Shiell, “Never Forget Herndon v. Lowry (1937)”

March 12: Melony Shemberger, “Exploring Legal Challenges to Transparency in the First Amendment’s ‘Right-to-Know’”

March 26: Elisabeth Fondren, “‘America First and America Only’: German-American Newspapers, Self-Censorship, and Press Freedom in 1917-1918”

April 9: Stuart Brotman and Shiela Hawkins, “The Internet’s Enduring Free Speech Legacy”

April 23: Austin Vining, “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the First Amendment: How One Religious Group Shaped Free Speech Jurisprudence in the Early 20th Century”

May 21: Jeffrey Blevins, “Free Expression and Fake News: Does the Marketplace of Ideas Metaphor Still Apply?”

June 18: Victor Pickard, “Reclaiming a Progressive First Amendment to Save Journalism”

July 2: Kimberly Wilmot Voss, “Help Wanted: The Legal and Journalism History to End Segregated Job Ads”

July 16: A.Jay Wagner, “The Milwaukee Leader: A Socialist Newspaper, the First Amendment and the Espionage Act”

July 30: Stephen Wolgast, “Defying the State to Speak: William Allen White and the Kansas State Law Prohibiting Speech in Support of Organized Labor”

Aug. 6: Roy Gutterman, “Feiner and the Heckler’s Veto – Back Again (Not That It Ever Left)”

Sept. 3: Patrick File, “What Do We Really Know about How Journalists Have Constructed the First Amendment?”

Oct. 1: Ellada Gamreklidze and Tom Terry, “Legislative Relevance of ‘Or of the Press’”

Oct. 15: Cayce Myers, “Protecting Advertising and Public Relations: A Brief History of Commercial Speech Protection and the First Amendment”

Nov. 12: Tim Klein, “’Speaking Out’: Press Freedom in Ethiopia in 1974”

Dec. 10: William Davie, “A Peace Worth Disturbing: Racial Lines of Reasoning for Two Dixie Landmarks”

Dec. 24: Caitlin Ring Carlson, “Media Ownership and the Marketplace of Ideas”

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