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Opinions Throughout History: Free Speech & Censorship

This new volume starts with a detailed Introduction that discusses key points and controversies in the history of free speech in the United States. This is followed by a comprehensive Timeline of significant events.

The 27 chapters that follow discuss the often elusive definition of free speech and censorship as well as public perception on the topic. The ability to speak freely, including the right to speak out against the government, is a fundamental component of any truly democratic society. The earliest colonial state legislatures passed provisions protecting free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly; the most well-known is the Massachusetts Body of Liberties

Almost as soon as free speech and freedom of the press were enshrined in the Constitution with the First Amendment, the fledgling US government attempted to curtail criticism in 1798 with the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, citing national security interests. From that point to the present, the First Amendment has been the subject of legal challenges and public controversy. Court decisions have dealt with free speech and national security, obscenity laws and women’s reproductive rights, and self-incrimination and the law, to name a few society-defining issues. The civil disobedience and protests that occurred during the civil rights movement are another example of protected free speech, and the free speech rights of minors were established when high school students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Free speech touches on issues as wide-ranging as political campaign financing and cake-making, which can all be viewed as a form of expression and have significant consequences for American society. Also discussed in this volume are key decisions regarding new media, from films to the Internet to video games.

The chapters are as follows:

  • Colonially Speaking
  • The Free and Unfettered Press
  • The First Right
  • Governmental Censorship
  • Obscene Speeches
  • Shouting Fire
  • Defending Civil Liberties
  • The Red Threat
  • Fighting Words
  • Moving Speeches
  • The Obscenity Scene
  • The Right Not to Speak
  • The Limits of Libel
  • Demonstrating Freedom
  • Protecting the Flag
  • Student Speech
  • The Worst Kind of Speech
  • The Right to Blow the Whistle
  • Prurient Interests
  • Expressions of Hatred
  • Forbidden Subjects
  • The Marketplace of Ideas
  • Money as Speech
  • Word Games
  • The Right to Deny Service
  • Freedom of Misinformation
  • Any Way You Cancel
  • Conclusion

Each chapter starts with a brief Introduction, List of Topics Covered, and the source document discussed in the chapter. The body of the text discusses the document from its historical context to its relationship to contemporary public opinion. Most documents are reprinted in their entirety and clearly distinguished by a shaded title bar. In addition to helpful subtitles, photos and other images enhance the text, and sidebars provide an often lighter perspective on the time period being discussed. Pull quotes and other visual elements increase accessibility. Each chapter ends with a brief Conclusion, thoughtful Discussion Questions, and a list of Works Used.

The concluding chapter concisely summarizes the long and difficult struggle to define the boundaries of free speech. It is followed by the Historical Snapshots section—a broad, bulleted overview of political, social, and cultural developments from 1880 to 2022 that help provide context and understanding of the political and social climate of the broad timeframe of the work.

This exciting new series offers a wide range of insights into long-standing issues that Americans are most concerned about, and those that have encouraged vigorous debate among politicians and citizens at large. Using carefully chosen original documents that cover a wide time span, Opinions Throughout History weaves a thoughtful and easy-to-understand analysis of how public opinion is formed and evolves, starting the discussion at an historical, seminal moment, and ending with where we stand today. This comprehensive, timely volume is a must for large public libraries, university libraries and social science departments, along with high school libraries.


Buyers of Opinions Throughout History: Free Speech & Censorship receive FREE ONLINE ACCESS on the popular Grey House/Salem Press Platform, With unlimited users and remote access included, your students and researchers can now search this amazing collection of data, anytime & anywhere, all just a click away.

View of Full List of titles from the Opinions throughout History Series