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Yale President Defends Free Speech



(p. A23) In 1963, the Yale Political Union, one of the oldest collegiate debate societies in the United States, invited the defiant segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to Yale. Just a few weeks before his scheduled visit, Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four African-American schoolgirls and wounding 22 others.

Wallace -- the personification of Southern hostility to integration -- had famously stood on the portico of the Alabama State Capitol and declared in his inaugural speech, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" Many blamed Wallace for inciting the violence.

The provost and acting president of Yale, Kingman Brewster Jr., advised the students to withdraw their invitation. Mayor Richard C. Lee said Wallace was "officially unwelcome" in New Haven.

Not everyone agreed. Pauli Murray, a lawyer and civil rights activist pursuing her doctorate of jurisprudence at the law school, wrote to Brewster, urging him to send a clear message that Wallace should be allowed to express his views at Yale.


. . .


In linking the fate of the civil rights movement to Wallace's speech, she reminds us that the Constitution makes for strange bedfellows. It applies to segregationists and integrationists, civil rights activists and self-proclaimed racists. All Americans can lay claim to its protections, but those, like Murray, who seek to change society and extend freedoms to the most marginalized may need it most.



For the full commentary, see:

Peter Salovey. "Free Speech, Personified." The New York Times (Mon., NOV. 27, 2017): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date NOV. 26, 2017. The wording of the online version differs substantially from that in the print version. The passages quoted above, are from the online version.)






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