First Amendment Center Vice President and Executive Director Gene Policinski’s essay Civil Rights Effort Drew on all 5 First Amendment Freedoms begins by noting “we mark the 50th anniversary this month of a hallmark image of the civil rights era — the earliest lunch-counter sit-ins.” Indeed the right to assemble peaceably was, as Policinski further notes, “essential for the myriad sit-ins, marches and protests” that helped bring the civil rights movement to public consciousness. The sit-ins, marches and protests were important strategies for direct action in the nonviolent movement.
Lessons from Freedom Summer: Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Movements, by Kathy Emery, Linda Reid Gold, and Sylvia Braselmann, tells one of the “thousand stories that… remain untold” — that of the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964, and the Freedom Schools that emerged during that summer. The Freedom Schools relied on a question-based curriculum to develop the confidence, literacy and organizational skills of disempowered African Americans.
As a companion to the book, the authors put “all of the Freedom School Curriculum materials we could track down on a website in order to make them freely available to all.” The site includes numerous primary sources materials, such as the flyers advertising Freedom Summer schools, and voter registration, along with numerous relevant articles and publications of the time. Unit VII, Part 1 presents the curriculum, a series of questions and answers, used to teach about freedom rides and sit-ins.
In “The Neglected Right of Assembly,”Tabatha Abu El-Haj notes the public’s willingness to tolerate modern restrictions on public assembly and explores how these restrictions, such as requirements for permits, have evolved over time. Related to this evolution, the public-forum doctrine, a set of guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court, identifies different categories of “First Amendment expressive activity,” with the least restrictive being a traditional public forum. For more information on the public-forum doctrine, visit the First Amendment Center’s AssemblyFAQs.
As explained in The First Amendment in Schools by Charles C. Haynes, et. al., the public-forum doctrine has specific application to public secondary schools. “Although schools do not have to open or maintain a limited open forum, once they do, they may not discriminate against a student group because of the content of its speech.” The authors explain “A ‘limited open forum’ is created whenever a public secondary school provides an opportunity for one or more ‘noncurriculum related groups’ to meet on school premises during noninstructional time.” For more information on how the right to assemble and public-forum doctrine apply to schools, visit the Five Freedoms Project Freedom of Expression & Assembly FAQs and the First Amendment Schools Assembly FAQs.