Speaker Ban remembered

By Alletta Cooper

This week, Carolina honored twelve students who sued their own university over the right to free speech on North Carolina’s public college campuses.

In 1963, the state legislature passed a law that banned known Communists from speaking on college campuses. But the Supreme Court later ruled the law violated the First Amendment.

The twelve students challenged the law in 1966. They invited two banned speakers to see how university officials would react.   Sure enough, UNC would not allow either man to talk on campus … so the speakers instead stood on Franklin Street, across the short rock wall that marks the campus boundary. More than 1000 students listened from the campus side of the wall.

This week, as part of University Day, a crowd gathered again at that same spot as Chancellor Holden Thorp unveiled a monument honoring the students.

Here are the memories of alumnus Jim Medford, UNC President Emeritus Bill Friday, and community activist Jane Smith Patterson.

“Speaking of the First Amendment” is a collaborative project among Carolina Connection, UNC’s student TV newscast, Carolina Week, and its online news site Reese News.

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