Eugene Debs' Constitutional legacy

University of Tennessee history department chairman Ernest F. Freeberg will discuss reknown Socialist and presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs and two pivotal Supreme Court cases that concerned him.

These cases regarding Constitutional liberties, which the court ruled on in 1895 and 1919, continue to reverberate today.

Freeburg will present the free program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Woodstock Public Library, 414 W. Judd St. in Woodstock. The lecture, sponsored by Woodstock Celebrates Inc., is being offered in celebration of a new Illinois State Historical Society marker for the old jail on the Woodstock Square.

The first Supreme Court decision, resulted in Debs serving time in the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock. The second, following Debs’ conviction for violating the 1917 Espionage Act, greatly impacted the public’s right to free speech – even during wartime.

Debs became a socialist in McHenry County Jail in 1895 partly because of the federal government's support of the railroads and Pullman Company and disregard for the American Railway Union's freedom of association. As a socialist, Debs in 1918 opposed the participation of the United States in World War One in a speech for which he was prosecuted by the federal government. This prosecution denied his freedom of speech.

Freeberg's compelling presentation will be based on his book "Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent" (Harvard University Press).
 

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