Dallas-Ft. Worth Harper Lecture: The Radical Roots of the Modern First Amendment

Featuring Laura Weinrib

Judicial enforcement of the Bill of Rights is a defining feature of American constitutional democracy. Yet in the first half of the twentieth century, neither freedom of speech nor court-centered constitutionalism commanded broad-based consensus. Laura Weinrib will explain how lawyers and activists convinced Americans to entrust their civil liberties to the courts.

When class war shook the nation’s institutions, labor radicals within the American Civil Liberties Union claimed a right to agitate through organized economic pressure: a right of workers to picket, boycott, and strike. Over time, they hitched those commitments to a conservative constitutional tradition that valorized individual rights. Their modern vision of civil liberties attracted adherents across the political spectrum. At the height of the New Deal, an unlikely coalition of activists and corporate lawyers redeployed the First Amendment to shield business interests from the intrusive reach of the state. On the new understanding, a powerful Bill of Rights protected conservatives as well as radicals, industry as well as labor. Weinrib will explore how that forgotten constitutional bargain has shaped the battle over the meaning and limits of civil liberties and state power today.


Event Details

2:00 p.m. Registration and networking
2:30 p.m. Presentation and discussion
3:30 p.m. Reception

$10/recent graduate (College alumni of the past 10 years and graduate alumni of the past five years)
Free for Class of 2016 UChicago alumni
Two complimentary registrations for members of the Chicago, Harper, Phoenix, and Medical and Biological Alumni Leadership Societies

Featured Faculty

Laura Weinrib is an assistant professor of Law and Herbert and Marjorie Fried Teaching Scholar at the University of Chicago Law School and an associate member of the Department of History. A legal historian, her scholarship explores the intersection of constitutional law and labor law.

Event Contact
Tori Luke
Staff Liaison