Student opposition to North Carolina’s 1963 Speaker Ban Law will be the subject of the annual Gladys Hall Coates University History Lecture Thursday, April 11, at the Wilson Special Collections Library.
Former UNC student body president Robert Spearman (’65) will discuss the controversial law that barred certain individuals from speaking on campus. Known members of the Communist Party, those who advocated the overthrow of the federal or state government, and those who pleaded the Fifth Amendment when questioned about communist or subversive activities were all prohibited from speaking at state-supported campuses.
The 5:30 p.m. lecture, sponsored by the North Carolina Collection and University Archives and Records Management Services, is free and open to the public.
The passage of the Speaker Ban Law fifty years ago drew almost immediate reaction from students and faculty, who protested that the law infringed on their rights to free speech. Students invited banned speakers to address their classmates from the sidewalk on Franklin Street and eventually initiated a lawsuit in federal court.
Spearman, now an attorney for a Raleigh law firm, testified before a state commission tasked with revising the law, which was eventually overturned in 1968.
Prior to the lecture, attendees can view the North Carolina Collection Gallery exhibition A Right to Speak and to Hear: Academic Freedom and Free Expression at UNC beginning at 5 p.m.
The exhibition uses original letters, documents, and photographs to examine the University’s long history of free speech controversies from the nineteenth century to the present.
The exhibition runs through June 2, 2013.