Conflict is the essence of civil liberty. Individual, or group, rights are rarely, if ever, recognized without a struggle. From the day that King John was forced at Runnymede to acknowledge that his barons had certain prerogatives, to the present era, when racial minorities, women, and gays and lesbians fight for a place at the table, the din of political, judicial, and sometimes violent battle echoes through the United States.
And yet, are the law of freedom of speech and the law of equality truly on a collision course? Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has written that the strongest argument for regulating speech is the unreflective reasoning for the other side--the tendency of those who invoke the First Amendment mantra, and seem immediately to fall into a trance, oblivious to further argument and evidence.
In an attempt to move past such rote recitations, this volume brings together such thinkers as Sylvia Law, Martin Redish, Ira Glasser, Randall Kennedy, Susan Deller Ross, and Wendy Kaminer to engage in a free-ranging conversation about this very issue. Focussing on the flashpoint topics of abortion clinic violence, workplace harassment, and hate crimes/hate speech, the contributors illustrate ways that we might get beyond the reflexivity that has dictated much of the debate around speech and equality.
Myra Young Armstead brings to life James Brown, a self-possessed African American citizen of the pre-Civil War United States, and gives us a new understanding of the meaning of freedom in antebellum America. As a master gardener in rural upstate New York, James Brown charted a life of complex alliances across racial lines and advocacy on behalf of fellow African Americans. Armstead's wonderful work of recovery illuminates a path to freedom in the rural North that we have known little about.-Leslie M. Harris,