Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Evolution of Freedom of Speech
Robert Brosseau
American History
Time Frame:
30 minutes class time one day, one night’s homework, next day entire class to report & discuss results
Civil War

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:
  • Cooperative Learning – groups of two will research and report back to class.  Class draws conclusion(s) as a group. 

  • Review for final exam.  Perspective going forward towards senior government class.

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

  • SS2 (Knowledge of Principles and Processes of Governance Systems) 1.6 & 3.6 

Principles and purposes of government – majority rule and minority rights; constitution and civil rights

  • SS3 (Knowledge of Continuity and Change in the history of Missouri and the US) 1.6 & 1.9

analyze the evolution of American democracy from Reconstruction to present

  • SS3 (Knowledge of Continuity and Change in the history of Missouri and the US) 1.6, 1.9, 3.5, & 3.6 describe and evaluate the evolution of US domestic and foreign policies from Reconstruction to present

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Assigned textbooks
  • Internet sources
  • Teacher packet from Truman Library re: Youngstown case

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

Full description of activity or assignment.
  • Break students into groups of two.  Assign them one of the following terms.  They are to research and develop a brief oral explanation of the event (less than one minute); the partner is to explain how that event relates to either freedom of speech and/or treason (30 second max here).  Give them 30 minutes or so to research in class.  Homework to complete.  Next day, take entire class period to give presentation.  Have a recorder make notes on the board; background timeline is helpful here, as is color-coding.  Teacher is to keep presentations focused on either freedom of speech or treason.

-       Whiskey Rebellion

-       Alien & Sedition Acts

-       Burr Conspiracy of 1807

-       Jackson’s Force Bill & Tariff of Abominations

-       John Brown’s Trial for Harper’s Ferry raid

-       Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus

-       Booth conspiracy of 1865

-       Schenck v. US and 1917 Espionage Act

-       Eugene Debs jailing

-       FDR’s Executive Order #9066 – Nissei internment

-       Truman attempts to nationalize steel industry – Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co vs. Sawyer

-       Rosenberg trial

-       Pentagon Papers – New York Times Co v. US

-       Vietnam anti-war protests

-       Wikileaks – Julian Assange & PFC Bradley Manning


other possibilities include the Hartford Convention, Chicago 7 trial, etc.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:
  • Easiest :  grade oral presentations only.  Basically, a full credit or no credit assignment.  Allow students to read off of a note card if they are nervous. 
  • Optional:  give extra credit for audience questions and/or correct answers given by presenter.  In this case, give only a passing grade for basic presentation of facts and require both a question and/or an answer to someone else’s question for “A” grade.  However, be aware that this will significantly lengthen the time of the activity, probably requiring an extra day.