African Americans and the First Amendment

The Case for Liberty and Equality

By Timothy C. Shiell

Subjects: African American Studies, American History, Philosophy Of Law, Political Science, Public Policy
Series: SUNY series in African American Studies
Hardcover : 9781438475813, 224 pages, September 2019
Paperback : 9781438475820, 224 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents


1. American Apartheid

2. A Pivotal Case

3. The Civil Rights Movement

4. Hate Speech


The first detailed examination of African Americans and First Amendment rights, from the colonial era to the present.


2020 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title

African Americans and the First Amendment is the first book to explore in detail the relationship between African Americans and our "first freedoms," especially freedom of speech. Timothy C. Shiell utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to demonstrate that a strong commitment to civil liberty and to racial equality are mutually supportive, as they share an opposition to orthodoxy and a commitment to greater inclusion and participation. This crucial connection is evidenced throughout US history, from the days of colonial and antebellum slavery to Jim Crow: in the landmark US Supreme Court decision in 1937 freeing the black communist Angelo Herndon; in the struggles and victories of the civil rights movement, from the late 1930s to the late '60s; and in the historical and modern debates over hate speech restrictions. Liberty and equality can conflict in individual cases, Shiell argues, but there is no fundamental conflict between them. Robust First Amendment values protect and encourage demands for racial equality while weak First Amendment values, in contrast, lead to censorship and a chilling of demands for racial equality.

Timothy C. Shiell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. His books include Campus Hate Speech on Trial: Second Edition, Revised and Legal Philosophy: Selected Readings.


"…Shiell's book is an important contribution to the literature on both the First and Fourteenth Amendments that elegantly pleas for recognizing their mutual importance in the ongoing quest for civil rights and liberties." — Free Speech Center

"This thoroughly documented study does an excellent job of combining philosophy, law, history, and political science … Highly recommended." — CHOICE

"A splendid book on all accounts, and a necessary one in today's heated debate over free speech." — Donald Alexander Downs, author of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus