Speaking Truth to Power, Taking Risks

Ida B. Wells published an editorial on her investigation on lynching in her Memphis paper, The Free Speech. When her office was destroyed by a mob, she wrote a more detailed account in the New York Age a black newspaper in New York City. On October 26, 1892, Wells published this research in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases. Having examined many accounts of lynchings due to the alleged “rape of white women,” she concluded that Southerners cried rape as an excuse to hide their real reasons for lynchings: black economic progress, which threatened white Southerners with competition, and white ideas of enforcing black second-class status in the society. Black economic progress was a contemporary issue in the South, and in many states whites worked to suppress black progress. In this period at the turn of the century, Southern states, starting with Mississippi in 1890, passed laws and/or new constitutions to disenfranchise most black people and many poor white people through use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other devices. Wells-Barnett recommended that black people use arms to defend against lynching.

She followed-up with greater research and detail in The Red Record (1895), a 100-page pamphlet describing lynching in the United States since the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. It also covered black peoples’ struggles in the South since the Civil War. The Red Record explored the alarmingly high rates of lynching in the United States (which was at a peak from 1880 to 1930). Wells-Barnett said that during Reconstruction, most Americans outside the South did not realize the growing rate of violence against black people in the South. She believed that during slavery, white people had not committed as many attacks because of the economic labour value of slaves. Wells noted that, since slavery time, “ten thousand Negroes have been killed in cold blood, [through lynching] without the formality of judicial trial and legal execution.”

Frederick Douglass had written an article noting three eras of “Southern barbarism,” and the excuses that whites claimed in each period.

Wells-Barnett explored these in detail in her The Red Record.

During slavery time, she noted that whites worked to “repress and stamp out alleged ‘race riots.'” or suspected slave rebellions, usually killing black people in far higher proportions than any white casualties. Once the Civil War ended, white people feared black people, who were in the majority in many areas. White people acted to control them and suppress them by violence.
During the Reconstruction Era white people lynched black people as part of mob efforts to suppress black political activity and re-establish white supremacy after the war. They feared “Negro Domination” through voting and taking office. Wells-Barnett urged black people in high-risk areas to move away to protect their families.
She noted that whites frequently claimed that black men had “to be killed to avenge their assaults upon women.” She noted that white people assumed that any relationship between a white woman and a black man was a result of rape. But, given power relationships, it was much more common for white men to take sexual advantage of poor black women. She stated: “Nobody in this section of the country believes the old threadbare lie that black men rape white women.” Wells connected lynching to sexual violence showing how the myth of the black man’s lust for white women led to murder of African American men.
Wells-Barnett gave 14 pages of statistics related to lynching cases committed from 1892 to 1895; she also included pages of graphic accounts detailing specific lynchings. She notes that her data was taken from articles by white correspondents, white press bureaus, and white newspapers. The Red Record was a huge pamphlet, and had far-reaching influence in the debate about lynching. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and The Red Record’s accounts of these lynchings grabbed the attention of Northerners who knew little about lynching or accepted the common explanation that black men deserved this fate. Generally southern states and white juries refused to indict any perpetrators for lynching, although they were frequently known and sometimes shown in the photographs being made more frequently of such events.

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A 19th Century Investigative Reporter

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830–1885) was a poet, novelist and essayist who became an advocate for Native American rights, fighting for improved treatment of Natives by the US government. She detailed the adverse effects of previous actions taken against Indian tribes in her history A Century of Dishonor (1881). Her novel Ramona dramatized the in Southern California and attracted considerable attention to her cause.

Helen Maria Fiske was born October 18, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the daughter of Nathan Welby Fiske and Deborah Vinal Fiske, a writer. Nathan Fiske was professor of Language and Philosophy at Amherst College. Helen had a sister Anne and two brothers, both of whom died soon after birth.
Deborah Fiske died of tuberculosis in 1844 when Helen was fourteen. Nathan Fiske died in 1847 in Jerusalem while on a trip to the Holy Land, but he had provided for her education and had arranged for an aunt to care for her.

Helen attended the highly regarded Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute, a boarding school run by Reverend J.S.C. Abbott in New York City, receiving an excellent education for the times. At Abbott, Helen was a classmate of one of America’s most distinguished poets Emily Dickinson, also from Amherst. The two remained close and corresponded for the rest of their lives, but few of their letters have survived.

Family
In 1852 at age 22, Helen married Edward Bissell Hunt, a captain in the U.S. Corps of Engineers. For the next 11 years, she and her husband followed the typically mobile life of a career military family. They had two sons, one of whom, Murray Hunt, died as an infant in 1854 of a brain disease.

The Civil War years were not kind to Helen and her family. In 1863 her husband was killed in an accident while experimenting with a one-man submarine he had invented. Her only surviving son, Horsford “Rennie” Hunt, died of diphtheria in 1865 at age nine.

In the winter of 1873-1874 on her doctor’s advice Helen visited Colorado Springs, Colorado in search of a cure for a respiratory ailment when she met a wealthy local banker and railroad executive William Sharpless Jackson. She married Jackson on October 22, 1875 and made Colorado her home. They had no children.

Literary Career
After losing all her family members, Helen took up residence in Newport, Rhode Island, where she and her husband had previously been stationed. After meeting Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a soldier, social reformer and author, Jackson decided to seriously pursue a writing career. With Higginson’s support, her initial literary efforts were devoted to children’s stories, travel sketches, poetry and essays under the pseudonyms “H.H.”

Helen Hunt Jackson became perhaps the most prolific woman writer of her era in the country. Many of her pieces appeared in the New York Independent, Nation, Atlantic and other periodicals. Her early work also included a volume of poetry, Verses (1870). Ralph Waldo Emerson admired her poetry and used several of her poems in his public readings. He included five of them in his anthology Parnassus.

From 1875 to 1877, Jackson published three novels, including Hetty’s Strange History and Mercy Philbrick’s Choice, in which Emily Dickinson was part-model for the heroine. In time, Jackson would produce more than 30 books and hundreds of articles. She most likely would have become better known without the pseudonyms, but popular convention of the time dictated that female writers conceal their true identity.

On a trip back east in 1879 Jackson attended a lecture in Boston by the Ponca Chief Standing Bear, who described the forcible removal of the Ponca Indians from their Nebraska reservation and transfer to the Quapaw Reservation in Indian Territory, where they suffered from disease, climate and poor supplies. This piqued her interest.

Jackson promised to help raise funds for the Ponca People so they could return to their homeland. She wrote a friend, “I have done now, I believe, the last of the things I have said I would never do. I have become what I have said a thousand times was the most odious thing in the world – a woman with a cause.”

Social Reform
Although Jackson continued her other writing, the Native Americans became her primary concern. Upset about the mistreatment of American Indians by government agents, Jackson started investigating and publicizing government misconduct, circulating petitions, raising money for lawsuits and writing letters to the New York Times, attempting to arouse public opinion on behalf of the Indians’ deteriorating condition.

She engaged in heated exchanges with federal officials over the injustices committed against American Indians. Among her special targets was US Secretary of Interior Carl Schurz, whom she once called “the most adroit liar I ever knew.” She exposed the government’s violation of treaties with the Indian tribes and documented the corruption of US Indian agents, military officers and settlers who encroached on and stole Indian lands. The book caused a national sensation.

Jackson’s political activism won the support of several newspaper editors who published her reports about broken treaties, dishonest deals and unfulfilled promises. Among them were William Hayes Ward of the New York Independent, Richard Watson Guilder of the Century Magazine and publisher Whitelaw Reid of the New York Daily Tribune.

In 1881 she wrote what she considered her most important book, A Century of Dishonor. She sent a copy of the book to each member of Congress with a quote from Benjamin Franklin printed in red on the cover: “Look upon your hands: they are stained with the blood of your relations.” The book condemned state and federal Indian policy, detailed the history of broken treaties and called for significant reform in government policy toward Native Americans.

The New York Times later wrote that she:

soon made enemies at Washington by her often unmeasured attacks, and while on general lines she did some good, her case was weakened by her inability, in some cases, to substantiate the charges she had made; hence many who were at first sympathetic fell away.

Jackson went to southern California for rest. Having been interested in the area’s mission and the Mission Indians on an earlier visit, she began an in-depth study. Under its original land grants, the Mexican government provided for resident Indians to continue to occupy the mission lands. After taking control of the territory in 1848, US policies led to their removal from mission lands.

In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur appointed Jackson, along with translator Abbott Kinney, Special Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1882 – the first woman to hold that position. Her assignment was to visit the Mission Indians in Southern California, ascertain the location and condition of various bands, and determine what lands should be purchased for their use.

In 1883 Jackson and Kinney published their 56-page report, which recommended extensive government relief for the Mission Indians, including the purchase of new lands for reservations and the establishment of more Indian schools. Jackson’s call for “some atonement” for past neglect and injustice was not acted upon by government authorities.

Inspired by her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jackson wrote:

I am going to write a novel, in which will be set forth some Indian experiences in a way to move people’s hearts. People will read a novel when they will not read serious books. If I could write a story that would do for the Indian one-hundredth part what Uncle Tom’s Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life.

Although Jackson started an outline in California, she began writing the novel in December 1883 in a New York hotel room, and completed it in about three months. Originally titled In The Name of the Law, she published it as Ramona (1884). The story features Ramona, an orphan girl who was half Indian and half Scots and her Indian husband Alessandro, and their struggles for land of their own.

Ramona dramatized the mistreatment of Indians in Southern California, although its popularity was based on its romantic and picturesque qualities rather than its political content. The characters were based on people known by Jackson and incidents which she had encountered. The book achieved rapid success among a wide audience and was popular for generations; it was estimated to have been reprinted 300 times.

A fall at her Colorado Springs home in June 1884 left Jackson with a severely fractured leg. However, she returned to California to visit friends and continue writing. While there, she was diagnosed with cancer, and never returned to Colorado.

Her last letter was written to President Grover Cleveland:

From my death bed I send you a message of heartfelt thanks for what you have already done for the Indians. I ask you to read my Century of Dishonor. I am dying happier for the belief I have that it is your hand that is destined to strike the first steady blow toward lifting this burden of infamy from our country and righting the wrongs of the Indian race.

Helen Hunt Jackson died of stomach cancer on August 12, 1885 in San Francisco, California. Her husband arranged for her burial on a one-acre plot on a high plateau overlooking Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her grave was later moved to Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. Her estate was valued at $12,642.

One year after her death the North American Review called Ramona “unquestionably the best novel yet produced by an American woman” and named it, along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of two most ethical novels of the 19th century. Sixty years after its publication, 600,000 copies had been sold. There have been over 300 reissues to date and the book has never been out of print.

Helen was described as “the most brilliant, impetuous and thoroughly individual woman in her time.” She rose above personal tragedy and became one of the most successful writers of her day. She included as her friends, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Through her dedication to Indian reform during the last five years of her life, she wrote herself into American history.

We Need A Free Press and Free Speech

Police are threatening free expression by abusing the law to punish disrespect of law enforcement

Camille Fassett
Reporter

July 31, 2018

In May 2016, a pair of police officers with the New York City Police Department ticketed Shyam Patel for his car’s tinted windows in Times Square. After parking his car, Patel raised his middle finger at them in response.

The NYPD officers then approached Patel and asked for his identification. When Patel asked what crime he was suspected of committing, he alleges that one officer told him, “You cannot gesture as such…”

When Patel insisted that freedom of speech did grant him the right, Patel alleges that the officer said that he could not curse a police officer, grabbed his phone, and again demanded identification. Patel was arrested and charged of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

While the charges were later dropped, Patel is suing the officers for violation of his First Amendment right to free expression. No law prohibits swearing at or flipping off a police officer, and it seems clear that law enforcement were in the wrong. But Patel’s case is only the latest incident of police officers abusing the law and their positions of power to punish people critical or disrespectful of law enforcement.

In 2009, a black man returned to his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts from travels abroad to find his door tightly shut. He, along with his taxi driver, forced the door open. Soon after, police arrived to his residence to respond to a reported burglary.

It’s unclear what words exactly were exchanged, but the man was arrested for “loud and tumultuous behavior”. A report by the officer in question indicated that the man merely used harsh language and called the officer a racist.

If the circumstances were different, this incident may not have made the headlines it did—countless people of color are accused of criminal activity for walking upon their own sidewalks or entering into their own homes. But the man was Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a professor at Harvard University and friend of newly elected President Obama. The details of his arrest quickly made waves across the country.

Coverage of the incident focused on concerns of racial profiling, but it was about free speech, too. Gates was arrested not for breaking and entering, but for disorderly conduct after he used harsh language at the officer—just like Patel in New York. Civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate has called disorderly conduct law enforcement’s “charge of choice” for when a citizen gives lip to a cop.

These types of cases are a still regular occurrence, despite the landmark 1974 court case Lewis v. New Orleans, where the Supreme Court struck down a city ordinance that outlawed “obscene or opprobrious language toward or with reference to” a police officer. At that time, the court noted that a “properly trained police officer may reasonably be expected to exercise a higher degree of restraint” than private citizens.

Despite the Supreme Court’s clear ruling on this issue, police in Pennsylvania are using the state’s version of a “hate crime” law to prosecute multiple people who say offensive things to them when they are arrested. These laws are intended to protect the vulnerable, but are instead being wielded as a tool by powerful government entities.

Robbie Sanderson, a 52 year old black man, was arrested for retail theft near Pittsburgh in September 2016. During his arrest, he called the police “Nazis” and “skinheads”, and said that “all you cops just shoot people for no reason.” He was charged with felony ethnic intimidation.

Later that year, Senatta Amoroso became agitated at a police station, and was arrested for disorderly conduct and knocked to the ground. According to the ACLU, she yelled while handcuffed in a jail cell: “Death to all you white bitches. I’m going to kill all you white bitches. I hope ISIS kills all you white bitches.” Her six charges included a felony assault charge for hitting an officer in the arm and felony ethnic intimidation.

Sanderson and Amoroso’s cases are just two of many of Pennsylvania law enforcement agents slapping disrespectful arrestees with “hate crime” charges. These people yelled speech that officers found offensive, but they were handcuffed and posed no physical threat to anyone.

Pennsylvania’s “ethnic intimidation” charge works similarly to “hate crime” laws in other states, which generally enhance penalties for perpetrators when victims were targeted for discrimanatory reasons. (“Hate speech” laws technically do not exist in the United States.) Although hate crimes statutes were enacted to protect minorities, they can and are being enforced to protect powerful groups like police.

Nadine Strossen, a professor at New York Law School who was previously president of the ACLU, is not surprised that police are abusing “hate crime” laws to punish disrespect. She thinks these cases, in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, all show the same pattern of such laws being wielded against the people they were intended to protect—minorities, and people who lack political power.

She noted that during the civil rights movement, police would charge people protesting injustice with whatever they could—with “resisting arrest”, “disorderly conduct”, or “fighting words”, all of which Strossen calls “catch-all” crimes.

Strossen thinks that the way police abuse “hate crime” laws reveals the inherent problematic nature of legislation that attempts to single out specific identities. “There’s this hydrologic pressure once you have any hate crime or hate speech law. Additional pressures to expand this definition emerge, until the question becomes: ‘Who is not included?'”

In Strossen’s new book, HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, not Censorship, she argues that hate speech laws in many European countries have ended up stifling the speech of the vulnerable populations they are intended to protect. She cautions that these recent examples show how hate crime laws can potentially be used for similar purposes in the United States, and that pushing for hate speech laws can backfire.

While the first hate crime laws in the United States were targeted to race and religion, they have expanded to include other categories like gender and sexual orientation. There is concern that powerful groups like police officers are co-opting these laws to shield themselves from scrutiny or criticism. It’s a pattern not unique to the United States—she referenced a recent proposal in South Africa that considered adding “occupation” to a list of protected classes. “Could this include police and politicians, and government officials?”

Some U.S. policymakers are already aiming to officially establish police as a “protected” class of people. This May, the House of Representatives passed the Protect and Serve Act, which would make assaulting a police officer a federal crime. The Senate’s version of this bill even frames attacks on police as federal hate crimes.

These legislative efforts at the federal level follow on the heels of so-called “Blue Lives Matter” bills already passed in states including Kentucky and Louisiana. And while the federal bill applies to physical attacks on police, the state level laws have been enforced upon mere language hostile to police.

During an arrest on unrelated charges in 2016, a man in New Orleans yelled insults at officers and was slapped with additional charges. In a post about this incident, the ACLU of Louisiana wrote that “While racist, sexist, and other similar language may show a lack of respect for law enforcement, it is the job of the police to protect even the rights of those whose opinions they don’t share.”

These bills are not only unnecessary (attacking police officers is already a crime) but also actively harmful.

“The point is clear, especially with regards to the adoption of hate crime statute frameworks: to reinforce the myth of the police as vulnerable and embattled,” Natasha Lennard wrote about “the Protect and Serve Act” for The Intercept.

Recent incidents in Pennsylvania, New York, and Louisiana are part of a long and disturbing history of police abusing the law to punish speech they find unfavorable. It’s deeply concerning for free expression that police feel empowered to add additional charges to arrestees because of the words that they yell while being handcuffed, and legislation that makes police a protected class only amplifies the police’s ability to silence dissent and intimidate critics.

Freedom of the Press ~ It’s Essential

In every State, probably, in the Union, the press has exerted a freedom in canvassing the merits and measures of public men of every description which has not been confined to the strict limits of the common law. On this footing the freedom of the press has stood; on this footing it yet stands. . . . Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of everything, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness? ~ James Madison (1751– 1836)

Free Press in the United States

Ida Tarbell helped transform journalism by introducing what is called today investigative journalism. Through her achievements, she not only helped to expand the role of the newspaper in modern society and stimulate the Progressive reform movement, but she also became a role model for women wishing to become professional journalists.

Born on the oil frontier of western Pennsylvania in 1857, Tarbell was among the first women to graduate from Allegheny College in 1880. After trying her hand at the more traditional women’s job of teaching, Tarbell began writing and editing a magazine for the Methodist Church. Then, after studying in France for a few years, she joined S. S. McClure’s new reform-minded magazine in 1894. Initially she wrote two popular biographical series–on Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln. In 1902, she embarked on her ground breaking study of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, or what was called the Standard Oil Trust. Her History of the Standard Oil Company, published in 1904, was a landmark work of expos√© journalism that became known as “muckraking.” Her exposure of Rockefeller’s unfair business methods outraged the public and led the government to prosecute the company for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. As a result, after years of precedent-setting litigation, the Supreme Court upheld the break-up of Standard Oil.

As the most famous woman journalist of her time, Tarbell founded the American Magazine in 1906. She authored biographies of several important businessmen and wrote a series of articles about an extremely controversial issue of her day, the tariff imposed on goods imported from foreign countries. Of this series President Wilson commented, “She has written more good sense, good plain common sense, about the tariff than any man I know of.” During World War I, she joined the efforts to improve the plight of working women. In 1922, The New York Times named her one of the “Twelve Greatest American Women.” It was journalism like hers that inspired Americans of the early twentieth century to seek reform in our government, in our economic structures, and in our urban areas. Along with other muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Upton Sinclair, Tarbell ushered in reform journalism. Ever since, newspapers have played a leading role as the watchdogs and consciences of our political, economic, and social lives.

Although Tarbell was not, herself, an advocate of women’s issues or women’s rights, as the most prominent woman active in the muckraking movement and one of the most respected business historians of her generation, Tarbell succeeded in a “male” world ‚Äì the world of journalism, business analysis, and world affairs, thus helping to open the door to other women seeking careers in journalism and, later, in broadcasting.

Free Press in the United States

William Lloyd Garrison’s opening editorial in THE LIBERATOR, January 1, 1831

During my recent tour for the purpose of exciting the minds of the people by a series of discourses on the subject of slavery, every place that I visited gave fresh evidence of the fact, that a greater revolution in public sentiment was to be effected in the free states — and particularly in New-England — than at the south. I found contempt more bitter, opposition more active, detraction more relentless, prejudice more stubborn, and apathy more frozen, than among slave owners themselves. Of course, there were individual exceptions to the contrary. This state of things afflicted, but did not dishearten me. I determined, at every hazard, to lift up the standard of emancipation in the eyes of the nation, within sight of Bunker Hill and in the birth place of liberty. That standard is now unfurled; and long may it float, unhurt by the spoliations of time or the missiles of a desperate foe — yea, till every chain be broken, and every bondman set free! Let southern oppressors tremble — let their secret abettors tremble — let their northern apologists tremble — let all the enemies of the persecuted blacks tremble.

I deem the publication of my original Prospectus unnecessary, as it has obtained a wide circulation. The principles therein inculcated will be steadily pursued in this paper, excepting that I shall not array myself as the political partisan of any man. In defending the great cause of human rights, I wish to derive the assistance of all religions and of all parties.

Assenting to the “self-evident truth” maintained in the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights — among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” I shall strenuously contend for the immediate enfranchisement of our slave population. In Park-street Church, on the Fourth of July, 1829, in an address on slavery, I unreflectingly assented to the popluar but pernicious doctrine of gradual abolition. I seize this opportunity to make a full and unequivocal recantation, and thus publicly to ask pardon of my God, of my country, and of my brethren the poor slaves, for having uttered a sentiment so full of timidity, injustice and absurdity. A similar recantation, from my pen, was published in the Genius of Universal Emancipation at Baltimore, in September, 1829. My consicence in now satisfied.

I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

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The free press is not the enemy of the people but rather the enemy of tyrants!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Have History~ The Free Press

Things the current administration needs to know:
The Trial of John Peter Zenger
On April 16th, 1735, the New York Supreme Court met in the second floor courtroom of New York City Hall. After attorneys James Alexander and William Smith, who were also Popular Party members, had attempted to represent John Peter Zenger at his trial, the Court decided to disbar both of them. The court did this because it was known that no attorney in the Province of New York would be as bold in the defense of John Peter Zenger as Alexander and Smith. A man named John Chambers was then assigned as a counsel for Zenger and entered a plea of not guilty. Chambers was a young man with little law experience in law. He was also complementary of Governor William Cosby’s administration.

Alexander and Smith searched for the most experienced trial attorney in the colonies and selected a man by the name Andrew Hamilton. A resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he was no relation to Alexander Hamilton and was born in Scotland in 1656. Hamilton was the Attorney General of Pennsylvania from 1717 through 1726 and became Recorder of Philadelphia in 1727. Later, he would go on to become the Speaker of the Assembly from 1729 to 1739.

After John Peter Zenger had languished in jail for an entire year, his trial began on August 4, 1735 inside a small court room in the New York City Hall. The Attorney General opened the case, saying that the defendant had pleaded not guilty to printing and publishing a false, scandalous, and seditious libel against Governor Cosby. Chief Justice DeLancey then said to the jury, “The laws in my opinion are very clear; they cannot be admitted to justify a libel.” When Andrew Hamilton spoke, he was made famous for arguing that “the truth is a defense against libel.” When the jury withdrew to deliberate, DeLancey was drawn into an argument with Hamilton, perhaps reflecting that Hamilton’s argument had some merit. When the jury returned, the Clerk asked whether they agreed on a verdict and whether John Peter Zenger was guilty of printing and publishing libels. The jury’s foreman, Thomas Hunt, replied, “Yes, the verdict is ‘Not Guilty’.”

The monumental trial of John Peter Zenger took place on the historic site where Federal Hall National Memorial now stands. The case inspired the entire city and helped to further the cause for freedom that led to revolution, forty years later. The John Peter Zenger trial would lead the way for the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, which reads, “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.”

Another socialist we need today

Eugene V. Debs Biography
Biographical Information
Born: Nov. 5,1855, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Died: Oct. 20,1926, Lindlahr Sanitarium, Elmhurst, Illinois. Buried in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Education: Attended Terre Haute Public schools, dropping out of high school at age of 14 to take job as painter in railroad yards. In 1870 became fireman on railroad. In his spare time, he went to night classes at a local business college.
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Timeline
September 1874 — At his mother’s insistence he gave up job as railroad fireman and went to work in wholesale grocery firm of Hulman & Cox as a billing clerk. February 27, 1875 — Became charter member and secretary of Vigo Lodge, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. He continued work at Hulman & Cox and used his salary to help the fledgling local union and conducted its work at night. Later the same year he became president of Occidental Literary Club of Terre Haute. Brought famous personages to Terre Haute including Col. Robert Ingersoll, James Whitcomb Riley, Susan B. Anthony and many others.
1878 — Made assistant editor of national Brotherhood of Locomotive Fireman’s Magazine.
1879 — Elected to first of two terms as City Clerk of Terre Haute on Democrat ticket.
1880 — Named Grand Secretary of Brotherhood of Railway Firemen and editor of the Magazine.
1884 — Elected state representative to the Indiana General Assembly as a Democrat representing Terre Haute and Vigo County. Served in 1885.
June 9, 1885 — Married to Kate Metzel whom he loved and cherished until his death. They had no children.
1890 — Built and moved into his beautiful Terre Haute home at 451 North Eighth Street, which is now a National Historic Landmark of the National Parks Department of the Department of Interior of the United States; an official historic site of the State of Indiana and is now the Debs Museum.
1891 — Announced his retirement from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen as its Grand Secretary.
1892 — Convention of Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen prevailed on him to retain editorship of Magazine.
June 1893 — Organized in Chicago first industrial union in United States, the American Railway Union.
April 1894 — The American Railway Union struck Great Northern Railway. Not a wheel moved on Great Northern and at end of 18 days, the railway granted demands of union.
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The Charter for the American Railway Union, Established June 20, 1893
May 11, 1894 — Pullman Boycott and strike at Chicago began.
July 23, 1894 — Debs and leaders of ARU jailed
May, 1895 — Debs and leaders of ARU sent to jail for contempt of court in connection with Pullman strike. Finished sentences
Nov. 22, 1895. Given triumphal welcome by thousands on his arrival in Chicago, from Woodstock, Ill. jail where sentence was served.
1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920 — Ran as candidate of Socialist Party for President of the United States in some of the most dynamic campaigning ever seen in the United States. Made his greatest showing in campaign of 1908 which featured the RED SPECIAL train which went to every section of the country.
1907-1912 — Named Associate Editor of the Appeal to Reason published in Girard, Kan. He was paid the then fabulous salary of $100 per week. The weekly magazine achieved a circulation of several hundred thousand due to the powerful writing of Debs. The bound files of the Appeal to Reason for the years of 1907 to 1914 are part of the library in the Debs home.
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Eugene V. Debs circa 1920
1916 — Ran for Congress in his home district in Terre Haute on the Socialist ticket and was defeated.
June 16, 1918 — Debs made his famous anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, protesting World War I which was raging in Europe. For this speech he was arrested and convicted in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio under the war-time espionage law. He was his own attorney and his appeal to the jury and his statement to the court before sentencing, are regarded as two of the great classic statements ever made in a court of law. He was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison.
April 12, 1919 — Debs began serving his sentence in Moundsville, W. Va. State prison and was transferred to Atlanta, Ga. Federal prison two months later. His humility and friendliness and his assistance to all won him the respect and admiration of the most hardened convicts.
1920 — For the fifth and last time, while a prisoner at Atlanta, he was nominated to run for president on the Socialist party ticket. Conducting his campaign from inside the prison, he was given nearly a million votes but was defeated by the Republican, Warren G. Harding. On Christmas Day, 1921 President Harding released Debs from prison, commuting his sentence to time served.
Dec. 28, 1921 — Debs arrived home in Terre Haute from prison and was given a tremendous welcome by thousand of Terre Hauteans. Debs spent his remaining days trying to recover his health which was severely undermined by prison confinement. He made several speeches, wrote many articles and finally in 1926 went to Lindlahr sanitarium just outside of Chicago.
Oct. 20, 1926 — Eugene V. Debs died in Lindlahr sanitarium. His body was brought back to Terre Haute where it lay in state in the Terre Haute Central Labor Temple. Great men and women from the world came over to Terre Haute for his funeral which was conducted by Norman Thomas from the front porch of the Debs home. ThIrty-eight years later, Thomas returned to Terre Haute to dedicate the Debs home as a memorial to the great humanitarian. Debs was cremated and his ashes were interred in Highland Lawn cemetery, Terre Haute, with only a simple marker. Ten years later his beloved wife, Kate, was buried beside him. Over the years, hundreds have journeyed to his grave to pay tribute to this great man whose many reforms have now become a part of the American way of life. There is hardly any American alive today, rich or poor, whose life has not been touched in some beneficent way by the influence of Eugene Victor Debs.
“Too long have the workers of the world waited for some Moses to lead them out of bondage. I would not lead you out if I could; for if you could be led out, you could be led back again. I would have you make up your minds there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves.”— from an address on Industrial Unionism delivered at Grand Central Palace. New York City, Dec. 18,1905.

The Kind of Woman We Need Today

The story of the Rebel Girl
Benjamin Silverman chronicles the radical legacy of IWW leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

August 7, 2012
“FOR PEACE and socialism is in the hearts, in the minds, on the lips of millions around the world…The ‘sun of tomorrow’ shines upon us. The future is ours.”

So said one of the giants of American radicalism, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, in a May Day speech in 1941. Flynn dedicated her life to the struggles of the working class through its highest and lowest points. She breathed class struggle and spoke of revolution for nearly 60 years, and her legacy is worthy of the highest admiration.

Born to poor Irish immigrants in 1890 in New Hampshire, she could claim proudly, “There had been an uprising in each generation in Ireland [against British rule], and forefathers of mine were reputed to be in every one of them.”

Her father, Thomas Flynn, educated her and her siblings in the meaning of her Irish heritage and the politics of liberation. “When one understood British imperialism, it was an open window to all imperialism,” wrote Flynn. “As children, we came to hate unjust wars, which took the land and rights away from other peoples.”

Now living in the South Bronx, her father drifted to socialist politics and brought young Elizabeth with him. Recounting what her father taught her, Elizabeth said, “Scientific socialism made clear that it was not a poor man’s fault if he is out of work…and you were not a ‘failure’ because you did not climb to riches on the backs of your fellow man.”

Thomas Flynn–who ran for the New York State Assembly on the Socialist ticket in 1918–later became overbearing and eventually jealous of his daughter’s popularity in the labor movement. But looking back, Elizabeth still felt that “[o]ur father’s methods were not entirely correct, but his purpose was clear, not to allow his children to be ‘educated’ against the interests of the working class.”

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FLYNN WOULD begin to develop politically on her own, devouring socialist novels like Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward and William Morris’ News From Nowhere, along with the works of Peter Kropotkin and August Bebel. It was the latter’s book Woman Under Socialism that she used as a basis for her first public speech and lecture on “What Socialism Will Do For Women,” which she gave at age 15.

A lifelong advocate for birth control access and a fighter for women’s rights, she said looking back on those times, writing in her autobiography Rebel Girl:

Fathers and husbands collected women’s wages, sometimes right at the company door. Women did not have a legal right to their own earnings…Equal opportunity, equal pay and the right to be organized were the crying needs of women wage-earner then and unfortunately still now.

This teenage agitator become a hit among working men and women, and a target for sexist ire from the snobbish New York Times, which commented after her first of many arrests in 1906, “Miss Flynn, who will graduate school in two years and whose shoe tops…show below her skirts [i.e., she dressed immodestly], tells us what to think, which is just what she thinks.”

A Broadway producer wanted to offer her a career as an actress due to her clear oratory talents, which she refused, saying, “I don’t want to be an actress! I want to speak my own words.”

Flynn began to speak across the country on behalf of the Socialist Party and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, often referred to as the “Wobblies”). She joined the IWW’s Mixed Local No. 179 in 1906, a year after the IWW’s founding.

During her long train trips to labor struggles and speaking engagements, she said she “fell in love with [this] country, its rivers, prairies, forests, mountains…I felt then, as I do now, it’s a rich and fertile land, capable of satisfying all the needs of its people. It could be a paradise on earth if it belonged to the people, not to a small owning class.”

Now, as a “professional revolutionist” with the IWW, she became a close collaborator with socialist Eugene Debs and IWW leaders Vincent St. John, Mother Jones and Joe Hill, the rebel songwriter. Flynn became a close friend of legendary Irish socialist James Connolly, who would be executed by the British in 1916 for his part in leading the Dublin Easter Rising against imperial rule, and helped him organize the Irish Socialist Federation.

One of her most important political relationships was with IWW leader and organizer William “Big Bill” Haywood. Flynn recalled some years later how Bill said in a speech, “‘I’m a two-gun man from the West, you know.’ And while the audience waited breathlessly, he pulled his union card from one pocket and his Socialist card from the other.”

Though the two would have a major political falling out some years later over the direction of the IWW, Flynn and Haywood worked closely together in a number of the IWW’s most historic struggles.

They worked together organizing agricultural workers in the West and lumber workers in the Pacific Northwest, and at countless freedom of speech fights all over the country. They were part of the 1913 silk strike in Paterson, N.J.; massive textile strikes in Lowell and New Bedford, Mass., and the great “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Mass.

Flynn was arrested for one trumped-up charge or another at just about all of these occasions. Her son Fred boasted many years later that he had been arrested twice, once in Missoula and a second time in Spokane–before he was even born.

During the Lawrence “Bread and Roses” strike, Flynn and Haywood worked hard to educate the mostly immigrant textile workers of, as Flynn put it:

their power, as workers, as the producers of all wealth, as the creators of profit. We talked of “solidarity,” a beautiful word in all languages. We said firmly, “You work together for the boss. You can stand together to fight for yourselves!” We ridiculed the police and militia. “Can they weave cloth with soldiers’ bayonets or policemen’s club?”

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THIS WAS the Wobblies’ great strength–the ability to relate and speak to people on their own terms, to point out to workers what they already knew in their guts, that the whole system is stacked against them and the only chance they’ve got is to band together, into “One Big Union.”

These were the high points of the early IWW, but they didn’t last. While the key to the IWW’s success was organizing among the unskilled workers who the American Federation of Labor refused to organize, some of their own policies diminished their ability to hold the group together.

For instance, the IWW refused to sign contracts over wages, benefits and working conditions because this, IWW leaders believed, represented a compromise with the bosses. Without contracts, the IWW failed to consolidate many of the gains it made during the brave workers’ struggles it led. In many cases, when IWW organizers left town, the local organizations fell apart.

The IWW also argued that the key to transforming society was organizing the majority of workers into “One Big Union,” which would be the framework for a new socialist society. The final blow to capitalism would come through a mass general strike that would paralyze the economy and force the bosses to give industry over to the working class. As a result, the IWW didn’t participate in politics–leaving this important arena of struggle to the Socialist Party, which was dominated by a conservative wing.

Reflecting many years later, Flynn said that “possibly a permanent industrial union movement could have been built a quarter century earlier than the CIO. But our incurable ‘infantile leftism’ blinded us.” By the beginning of the First World War, the IWW had been weakened by splits, factionalism and an unwillingness to tackle explicitly political issues.

And this was just before its greatest challenge. With the entry of the U.S. into the First World War, a wave of government-backed mob violence spread across the country. Pacifists, certain Christian sects, German immigrants, socialists and especially Wobblies were attacked, brutalized, tarred and feathered, and sometimes lynched.

During the Red Scare, socialists and communists, anarchists, Wobblies, unionists and other radicals were attacked, their halls ransacked and their members arrested. Many were rounded up in the Palmer Raids, named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, and deported under the auspices of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn took it upon herself at this time to struggle for the freedom all of these “class war prisoners.” She said, “We planned to work for the release of all [labor] and political prisoners…the imprisoned comrades, of whatever persuasions, were a bond of unity.”

She became a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a principal activist within the International Labor Defense (ILD), which formed in 1925.

“One of our first undertakings was to publicize the facts of each case,” explained Flynn. “We organized outside correspondents to write to the prisoners. Through these channels, we soon became very familiar with the conditions inside the gray, forbidding walls of federal penitentiaries.”

Flynn helped win the release of those who participated in the Green Corn Rebellion, a revolt of poor Oklahoma farmers against the draft, fought for the freedom of many imprisoned Wobblies and antiwar activists, and was heavily involved in the campaign to save Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti from execution.

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HER POLITICAL activities in the 1920s were cut short by illness, and she spent the better part of a decade ill and inactive. When she finally re-entered her lifelong work as a revolutionist, it was to join the Communist Party (CP)–an organization she had already moved close to through her work with the ILD.

Flynn joined the Communist Party in 1936, was elected to the national committee two years later and became national chairperson in 1961. By this point, the U.S. Communist Party, like all those around the world, had become a creature of the new ruling bureaucracy in Russia, led by Joseph Stalin, and so it followed the dictates from Russia, even when this meant opposing struggle.

Flynn followed the CP line through its many appalling twists and turns, including the Stalin-Hitler Pact, and then support for the Second World War, revelations by Khrushchev of the extent of Stalin’s murderous crimes, and the Russian suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

But this period in her life shouldn’t overshadow Flynn’s record of militancy and courage in the cause of the labor movement, for which she faced police violence and was thrown in jail countless times for her beliefs and even served two years behind bars in the late 1950s as a victim of McCarthyism.

In a world of “great men” she was a proud, working-class, Irish woman who stood with her shoulders square and spoke with an impassioned voice that was eloquent, yet relatable; inspiring, but not condescending; and militant to the core.

When Elizabeth Gurley Flynn went to see the great IWW songwriter Joe Hill in Salt Lake City while he was awaiting execution for a crime he didn’t commit, Joe dedicated a song to Flynn called “The Rebel Girl”:

Yes, her hands may be harden’d from labor
And her dress may not be very fine;
But a heart in her bosom is beating
That is true to her class and her kind.
And the grafters in terror are trembling
When her spite and defiance she’ll hurl.
For the only and thoroughbred lady
Is the Rebel Girl.

And this is exactly how Elizabeth Gurley Flynn deserves to be remembered.

A Call to Give Thanks

By the President of the United States of AmericaAbraham Lincoln
A ProclamationThe year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October, A. D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.