Freedom of Speech
In this lesson, students analyze a photo of Robert Kennedy speaking outside the U.S. Department of Justice on June 14, 1963, and use it to discuss freedom of speech as a constitutional right in the United States, and human right around the world.
Time needed: 30-45 minutes
Photo of Robert Kennedy speech, June 14, 1963 (copies or projected)
- Ask students to look at the photo. Students should discuss what they see and what they think is happening. The following questions might generate discussion:
- What do you notice first?
- Are the people inside or outside? Where do you think the people are?
- Who might be the man standing to speak? How does he look compared to the people in the crowd? (dress, age, attitude)
- What are people in the crowd doing?
- Why do you think the people are meeting?
- What do you think is happening in the photo?
- Explain to students that the photo was taken in Washington, DC, in front of the U.S. Department of Justice on June 14, 1961, identify the man speaking as Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and point out the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) sign. Discuss the gathering with students:
- What do you think the CORE was?
- Why might they have been gathered?
- Ask students to consider the phrase “freedom of speech.” Clarify the meaning of those words as needed, and discuss the following questions:
- Do you think the man speaking to the crowd in the photo has freedom of speech? How about the people in the crowd?
- Do you think it is important that they have freedom of speech? How might that freedom have facilitated their gathering?
- Do you think the people in the photo have freedom of speech when they leave the gathering shown in the photo? When they go home?
- Do you have freedom of speech like the people in the photo?
- Where do you think our freedom to speech comes from?
- Depending on students’ understanding of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or concepts of law, explain that freedom of speech is included in the U.S. Constitution. Discuss the following questions:
- Do you think freedom of speech is important to you? To everyone in your class or school? Your community?
- What might happen if someone does not have freedom of speech? Someone in your class or school? Your community?
- Wrap up discussion with an emphasis on how freedom of speech is not only valued in the United States and guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution, but also recognized as an important right for people around the world.
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded in 1942, became one of the leading activist organizations in the early years of the American civil rights movement. In the early 1960s, CORE, working with other civil rights groups, launched a series of initiatives: the Freedom Rides, aimed at desegregating public facilities, the Freedom Summer voter registration project and the historic August 1963 March on Washington.