“To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker. It is just as criminal to rob a man of his right to speak and hear as it would be to rob him of his money”
Frederick Douglass, “A Plea for Free Speech in Boston,” 1860
Black History Month is a time to reflect on the contributions that African-Americans make and have made to American society and to recognize the numerous struggles that define the African-American experience in America.
Much of Black History Month understandably focuses on well-known movements, incidents and individuals to tell the story. However, what is often times overlooked is the role played by free speech and free expression in civil rights, politics, art and entertainment in the shaping of black history—and, by extension, American history.
From slavery to rap & hip-hop music, the desire of African-Americans to express themselves has often been met with stiff—and sometimes deadly—opposition.
While, for example, the efforts of various civil rights demonstrators in the 1950s and 1960s to protest restrictive voting laws and Jim Crow laws are well known, the National Coalition Against Censorship has collected less-recognized historical examples to illustrate the efforts some will go to to silence African-Americans and to highlight the importance of free speech to theirs and other social justice movements.