Today on her birthday, we remember African-American journalist and anti-lynching campaigner Ida B. Wells. Wells trumpeted the injustice of lynching in the southern United States despite threats on her life and livelihood.
Wells was born to slaves in the south and was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Wells, initially a teacher, began writing about race and politics after being removed from a train for refusing to give up her seat. She eventually became the owner of the Memphis Free Speech. One editorial Wells wrote after the murder of three black grocery store owners was considered so radical it influenced a mob to destroy the office of her newspaper. Wells once said about those who violently opposed her, “They had made me an exile and threatened my life for hinting at the truth.”
Despite the attack on her newspaper’s office and threats on her life, Wells’ brave outcry against lynching could not be silenced and she re-located to the northern states. She pursued thorough investigative journalism on lynching, wrote an in-depth report on lynching for the New York Age and even lectured abroad. Her anti-lynching campaigning eventually reached the White House in 1898, where she headed a protest and called on President William McKinley to enact reforms.
Our new exhibit "One Nation With News for All" celebrates immigrant and minority press like Wells’ Memphis Free Speech and the advancements they’ve achieved. Stop by the Newseum to learn more about these sectors of press as well as the causes - and people - they champion.
Iconic American author Elwyn Brooks (E.B.) White would have turned 115 years old today. E.B. White, perhaps best known as the author of beloved children’s books Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, was also a prominent contributor to The New Yorker.
White’s work was critically recognized by some and censored by others. As an author, White championed free speech and shunned the idea that literature had to obey restrictions. He wrote in 1939, “It is the duty of writers to pay no attention to duty… Only under a dictatorship is literature expected to exhibit an harmonious design or an inspirational tone.”
Although White received a Pulitzer Prize Letters award in 1978 for his essays, letters and complete works, his 1952 book Charlotte’s Web was banned for its unorthodox depiction of talking animals. Charlotte’s Web was highlighted in a Banned Books Nook at the Newseum in 2009. Barbara McCormack, director of education at the Newseum said the temporary display was meant to help families discuss the subject of book banning. McCormack went on to say, “Book banning impacts all generations’ First Amendment rights and above all else, their freedom to read.”
Come visit the Newseum to see what many others through history had to say in defense of free speech.
Today marks 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the iconic piece of legislation during a nationally televised ceremony in the White House. Civil rights movement leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, were in attendance to watch one of the nation’s most crucial pieces of civil rights legislation signed.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin as well as ending public segregation. It laid the groundwork for other landmark laws like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and continues to uphold civil rights today. President Johnson, before signing the Civil Rights Act, called the American public’s attention to the nation’s founding values of freedom and equality and urged them to embrace the act as a way to uphold such values.
The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was bolstered by the millions of Americans who exercised their First Amendment rights to protest unfair treatment and call for change. Today we thank and remember those who spoke out and acted out against injustice and those who continue to do so half a century later.
"1964: Civil Rights at 50" is our yearlong exhibit that chronicles the events of a dramatic year in the civil rights movement, including Freedom Summer, “Mississippi Burning” and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Visit the Newseum to learn more about this influential year. Contributing sponsorship for “Civil Rights at 50” has been provided by Walmart and Altria Group.
On June 20, 1979, ABC News international correspondent Bill Stewart was shot while covering the Nicaraguan civil war. Nicaraguan National Guard soldiers killed Stewart and his interpreter at a government roadblock. Shortly afterward, President Jimmy Carter withdrew support from the Nicaraguan government.
Image Credit: Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.
President Carter said of Stewart’s murder, “When [journalists] are made innocent victims of violence and war, all people who cherish the truth and believe in free debate pay a terrible price.” Our Journalists Memorial Gallery helps us remember the importance of journalists like Stewart who make the ultimate sacrifice in the pursuit of news.
Watch Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president at The Associated Press, recognize journalists who died on the job at our memorial’s 2014 rededication ceremony here.
Today in 1972, five men were arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. In their possession were cameras, film, and tear gas guns. Ultimately, the suspects were charged with burglary and convicted in January 1973; however, the real scandal as would later be uncovered by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed that the suspects all had ties to the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, a support group for President Richard M. Nixon. While Nixon denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the burglary, a secret tape later surfaced and revealed that Nixon had known about the burglary cover-up and had tried to use the FBI to stop the investigation.
With Woodward and Bernstein’s persistent news reporting, their investigation sparked one of U.S. history’s biggest stories of crime, espionage and cover-up and shed a light on the importance of journalism and a free press – leading to the downfall of a presidency, with Nixon resigning office on August 8, 1974.
At the Newseum, you can see a door from the Watergate that the burglars taped open – which was discovered by a security guard and led to their arrest – in the Newseum’s News Corporation News History Gallery. Be sure to also check out a video on the Watergate scandal on the Digital Classroom site!
Today marks 10 years since the Federal Communications Commission agreed to a settlement with Clear Channel after a dispute over indecent material. The FCC imposed a $495,000 fine on Clear Channel after radio listeners complained about The Howard Stern Show. Howard Stern and the FCC butted heads so often that in 1991 Stern released “Crucified by the FCC,” a tape that featured his previously edited or fined material.
Image: Newseum Collection
Artifact: Newseum Collection
The right to free speech is contested over radio, on TV, in schools and even at funerals. You can read about more conflicts about free speech in our Cox Enterprises First Amendment Gallery.
Today in 1919, Congress approved the 19th amendment, which would grant women the right to vote, and sent it to the states for ratification. Check out this ballot box for “women’s ballots,” a ribbon worn by a female voter and a thread holder that was sold to raise funds for the suffrage movement in the Newseum’s Cox Enterprises First Amendment Gallery.
Photo credit: James P. Blair/Newseum
Artifact: Loan: Ronnie Lapinsky Sax
Be sure to also explore the Newseum’s new digital classroom module: “Women, Their Rights and Nothing Less.” This learning module investigates how the suffragists embraced the First Amendment as a tool to help achieve their goal and includes an interactive timeline, featuring nearly 300 historical front pages and a collection of First Amendment case studies.
CNN (Cable News Network) celebrates 34 years on the air this Sunday, June 1. CNN was the first television network to air news 24 hours a day starting in 1980, and has since offered viewers non-stop news coverage of major events around the world.
You can see this TK-76 television camera that was used when CNN first went on the air in the Newseum’s News Corp. News History Gallery.
Credit: Newseum Collection/Loan, Dave Rust, CNN
Head to the Newseum June 7 to see former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw as he recounts his coverage of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The program in the Knight TV Studio is included with Newseum admission or Press Pass membership.
Baxter welcomes back his old canine friends today with the reopening of “First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets” at the Newseum. This playful photo exhibit showcases some of the top dogs who resided at the nation’s most prestigious address. Come see Bo and Sunny, and don’t forget to check out “Anchorman: The Exhibit” while it’s on display through the summer!