Flashpoints: Free Speech and Political Dissent

Wednesday, May 18, 2022 - 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Various Authors

Barabara Krauthamer, Claire Potter, and Geoffrey Stone will discuss themes and ideas presented in PEN America's event series: Flashpoints: Free Speech in American History, Culture, & Society. Their conversation will be moderated by Brett Gadsden.

Presented in partnership with PEN America and the American Writers Museum.

In-Person event at the American Writers Museum


About the event: PEN America's event series, Flashpoints: Free Speech in American History, Culture & Society, will present the fascinating and complex history of free speech in American democracy to public audiences in cities across the country. The series will examine how free speech has evolved, illuminate past debates over who has the right to speak, and shed light on present debates about free speech in the context of protest, dissent, and the quest for social change. Join us at 6:30PM on May 18 at the American Writers Museum for "Free Speech and Political Dissent". This humanities discussion tackles a central question about the First Amendment’s role in the American consciousness: just how “free” is free speech? From “gag rules” prohibiting abolitionist views on the congressional floor to anarchists and communists being deported or imprisoned for sedition, Americans have often pushed the boundaries of politically acceptable speech, and faced robust resistance. This humanities discussion will shine a light on the importance of protecting space for dissent in debates that continue to surround contentious social and political issues today. Featuring panelists Barbara Krauthamer, Claire Potter, and Geoffrey Stone; and moderated by Brett Gadsden.

About the Moderator: Brett Gadsden is Associate Professor of African American Studies and History at Northwestern University and a historian of 20th century United States and African American history.  His first book, Between North and South: Delaware, Desegregation, and the Myth of American Sectionalism, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) chronicles the three-decades-long struggle over segregated schooling in Delaware, a key border state and important site of civil rights activism, education reform, and white reaction He is also the recipient of fellowships and grants from the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Libraries, National Academy of Education, Spencer Foundation, Smithsonian Institution, American Historical Association, Hagley Museum and Library, and Delaware Heritage Commission.

About the panelists: 

Barbara Krauthamer is Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is also professor of History.  She is the author of multiple books, including, Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, co-authored with Dr. Deborah Willis.  This book received numerous accolades, most notably the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in non-fiction.  She is currently working on a book about enslaved women’s efforts to liberate themselves during the era of the American Revolution.  She has received numerous grants and fellowships, including funding from Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; Stanford University’s Research Institute for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity; the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas Austin; and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  In 2017 the Association of Black Women Historians awarded her the Lorraine A. Williams Leadership Award in recognition of her scholarship and work to create opportunities for Black women in higher education.

Claire Potter is a Professor of History and co-Executive Editor of Public Seminar at The New School for Social Research in Greenwich Village, New York City. The author of two books and two edited collections, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, Politico, Yale Review, AlterNet, Dissent, Eurozine, The Village Voice, Inside Higher Education, and Jacobin. Her most recent book is Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy (Basic Books, July 7, 2020), listed by the New York Public Library as an “Essential Read” for the 2020 election. She is currently writing a biography of journalist and radical feminist activist Susan Brownmiller. 

Geoffrey R. Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Chicago. After serving as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Mr. Stone joined the faculty of The University of Chicago Law School in 1973. In the years since, he has served as Dean of the Law School (1987-1994) and Provost of the University (1994-2002). Mr. Stone is the author or co-author of many books on constitutional law, including Social Media, Freedom of Speech, and The Future of Our Democracy (forthcoming 2022); National Security, Leaks and Freedom of the Press (2021); Democracy and Equality: The Enduring Constitutional Vision of the Warren Court (2020); The Free Speech Century (2018); Sex and the Constitution (2017); and Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime (2004). Mr. Stone’s books have received many national awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Award for the Best Book of the Year, Harvard University’s Award for the Best Book of the Year in Public Affairs, and the American Political Science Association’s Award for the Best Book of the Year in Political Science.

Event Location: 
American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Avenue 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60601