HS – Free Speech and Seditious Speech on the CT World War I Home Front

by Christine Gauvreau, Project Coordinator, Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project
Connecticut State Library


TEACHER'S SNAPSHOT
Topic
World War I
Theme
The Role of Connecticut in U.S. History
Town
Bridgeport, Hartford, Waterbury, Statewide
Related Search Terms
Protest, Labor, Patriotism, Preparedness, Pacifism, Neutrality, Free Speech, Seditious Speech, Anarchism, Deportation, Espionage, World War One, The Great War
Social Studies Frameworks
High School – United States History
D1: POTENTIAL COMPELLING QUESTION

Does free speech exist in a time of war?

D1: POTENTIAL SUPPORTING QUESTIONS
  • What kinds of “speech” were limited during WWI?
  • Why was free speech restricted?
  • What were the possible penalties for those who violated the regulations?
  • How did different people respond to the limitation on speech at the time?
D2: TOOL KIT

Things you will need to teach this lesson.

Extra! Police Take Notice
Extra! Police Take Notice” [ad for film], Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, April 23, 1918 – Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress
image Download an image of the article “Extra! Police Take Notice” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, April 23, 1918, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article, “Extra! Police Take Notice” Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, April 23, 1918, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Waterburian Held for Reviling Flag; Another Tries to Kill Soldier
“Waterburian Held for Reviling Flag; Another Tries to Kill Soldier,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 7, 1917 – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Waterburian Held for Reviling Flag; Another Tries to Kill Soldier,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 7, 1917, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article “Waterburian Held for Reviling Flag; Another Tries to Kill Soldier,” Bridgeport Evening Farmer, April 7, 1917, or click on the image above to link to the article.

 

Hartford Police Arrest Pacifists
Detail of the article, “Hartford Police Arrest Pacifists,” Norwich Bulletin, September 17, 1917. Click on the image to read the entire article.  – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Hartford Police Arrest Pacifists,” Norwich Bulletin, September 17, 1917, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article “Hartford Police Arrest Pacifists,” Norwich Bulletin, September 17, 1917, or click on the image above to link to the article.
Street Meeting Speakers Get Arrest They Were Looking For
Detail of the article “Street Meeting Speakers Get Arrest They Were Looking For,” Norwich Bulletin, October 13, 1920. Click on the image to read the entire article. – Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
image Download an image of the article “Street Meeting Speakers Get Arrest They Were Looking For,” Norwich Bulletin, October 13, 1920, or click on the image above to link to the article.
page Download a pdf of the entire page including the article “Street Meeting Speakers Get Arrest They Were Looking For,” Norwich Bulletin, October 13, 1920, or click on the image above to link to the article.

Speech considered anti-war or anti-American was regulated on the home front during the World War I era. Violations led to arrests and convictions. Pacifists, socialists, and immigrant workers were particularly monitored for disloyal speech.  The legal authority for these actions flowed from the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918.

D3: INQUIRY ACTIVITY

Start by showing “Extra! Police Take Notice!” (an advertisement for the film The Kaiser, published in the Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, April 23, 1918.) Have the class read the advertisement together, identifying:

  1. Facts/things they can know for sure from the source
  2. Inferences/things they can reasonably guess or assume
  3.  Questions they have

Working individually or in groups, have students read some or all of the other three sources. In addition to pulling out facts, inferences, and further questions, students may explore supporting questions such as:

  • What kinds of “speech” were limited during WWI?
  • Why was free speech restricted?
  • What were the possible penalties for those who violated the regulations?
  • Who accused people of “seditious” or anti-American speech?
  • What kinds of people were accused?

Discuss questions that have emerged from the sources and where students could find answers or learn more.

D4: COMMUNICATING CONCLUSIONS

Students will select a person mentioned in one of the sources (a “concerned citizen,” law enforcement, protestor/accused citizen) and defend his or her position in a debate with classmates on the question of freedom of speech and censorship during World War I.

Students, acting as if they were a resident of Connecticut from 1917 through 1921, will write a letter to the editor of either the Norwich Bulletin or the Bridgeport Evening Farmer/Bridgeport Times in reaction to any of the primary sources provided.

Students will investigate events/topics related to free speech today—especially those involving national security—and write a letter to the editor of a contemporary newspaper placing these events into historical context and presenting lessons that could be drawn from the regulation of speech over time in America.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Places to GO
Things to DO
Websites to VISIT

This TeachITCT.org activity is sponsored in part by the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Eastern Region Program, coordinated by Waynesburg University.