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A Curriculum for Middle and High School Students

The Fight for Free Speech

[ Questions on The Fight for Free Speech | Freedom of Expression | Next Exhibit ]

Cover of
Alden Freeman pamphlet,
The Fight for Free Speech
CONTEXT: As people like Goldman were prevented from speaking, societies formed to protect the right to free speech. A pamphlet created by Alden Freeman alerted people to the fight for free speech. It contains a tongue-in-cheek New York Times account of his attempt to hold a meeting where Emma Goldman could speak freely and without police restriction.

Excerpt from New York Times article,
"Goldman Champions Win the East Side,"
July 1, 1909

Alden Freeman Pleads for Free Speech Before a Cooper Union Audience--Very Orderly "Anarchists"--Leonard Dalton Abbott Opens the Meeting--Miss de Cleyre Talks Vigorously--Mrs. Milton Rathbun Makes a Hit--Emma Goldman Not Present.


Spotless Town has been located. It is in East Orange, N. J. Alden Freeman says so, and he lives there and ought to know.

Alden Freeman is the Mayflower descendant who got rousted (Not yet, not on your life!--A. F.) out of a genealogical society or two for inviting Emma Goldman, the Anarchist, to partake of a few mayflowers in East Orange, N. J., on the occasion of some grand celebration or other. He also wrote a letter to Mayor McClellan complaining that the police had made him ill by chasing him and several hundred other American citizens into the street when they had paid good American money to hear Miss Goldman lecture on that incendiary topic, "The Drama."

Last night the most rigidly law-abiding people in the city of New York--we refer, of course, to the Anarchists--got together in Cooper Union to express their indignation over the action of the police in suppressing Emma Goldman every time she tried to talk, and they let Alden Freeman, a Puritan unto the third and fourth generation, preside over them.

It was a funny crowd, viewed from our New York standpoint. Now, normally, you would suppose that a lot of Anarchists would be the most uncontrollable and lawless outfit you would get together. Actually these Anarchists gave any Presbyterian prayer meeting cards and spades on courtesy and decency. If a man tried to get out of there before the meeting was over he sneaked out; he concealed himself; he tried to avoid observation.

It was entirely different from the average Republican or Democratic massmeeting, where as soon as the star speaker has got through everybody rises and makes a sprint for the doorway. And if anybody tried to applaud at the wrong time he was hissed down.

The fuss was over the fact that some time ago, when Emma Goldman went to Harlem and tried to tell an audience that Ibsen had Hauptmann beaten as a dramatist and that Eugene Walter was the hope of the American stage, a lot of policemen chased her off the stage on the theory that Hauptmann was probably an Anarchist because he was Dutch. This outrage had rankled in the minds of the Anarchists, and they had hired Cooper Union for $75 to show that they didn't like it.

Leonard D. Abbott opened the meeting. He is an editor--runs a magazine, in fact. When he got on the platform he confronted the most earnest crowd that has filled Cooper Union in many a day. At the outset they had a line of policemen stationed around the hall, presumably to arrest Emma Goldman if she should get up and erupt some incendiary sentiment such as "Eugene Walter is a great dramatist"--which is about as far as Emma Goldman goes these days.

But Leonard Abbott announced, "right off the bat," that Miss Goldman wasn't going to speak, and wasn't even going to be there, because she would surely be arrested as soon as she opened her mouth, and the promoters of the meeting didn't care for any police interference.

But Leonard Abbott and everybody else who talked last night rubbed in the fact that Miss Goldman would make a speech at 100 West 116th street on Friday--count it: 100 West--near Lenox avenue--take the Subway--you can't miss it.

Questions on "The Fight for Free Speech":
Pamphlet cover:
  1. What do the quotations on the cover from Wendell Phillips, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine say about liberty?

  2. What does this pamphlet say it contains? How might participants in a free speech campaign use this pamphlet?

  3. What arguments might free speech advocates use to support their title, "Law-Breaking by the Police?"

Newspaper article:
  1. Who is Alden Freeman and what happened to him as a result of inviting Emma Goldman to lecture?

  2. Does Freeman fit your image of a "Mayflower descendent"?

  3. Why was Goldman perceived by some to be a threat even when she was lecturing on modern drama?

  4. What clues do you have that the article is intended to be a humorous account of a secretive meeting of Mayflower descendants and anarchists?

  5. Was speaking in public against the law? Who was responsible for enforcing the law? Why might the official response to Goldman's lectures have been so unpredictable?

General Questions on This Exhibit:
  1. Would you stand up for an unpopular view if it meant that you would lose your friends?

  2. How do such groups as Amnesty International, the Sanctuary movement, and other recent human rights movements compare to the free speech movement?

  3. Does the race, gender, ethnicity, and class of the advocate of an unpopular cause affect the reception or rejection of their message?

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