May 2, 2017 Library to Present Symposium on Civil Liberties During World War I

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Public Contact: Ryan Reft (202) 707-2022
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Distinguished legal scholars will examine the challenges to civil liberties during World War I, in a symposium at the Library of Congress on June 8.

“Resistance and Rights: Civil Liberties during World War I” will take place from 2:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.  The event is free and open to the public.  Tickets are not needed.

The symposium is hosted by the Law Library of Congress and the Library of Congress Manuscript Division.  It is made possible by the James Madison Council, the Library’s private-sector advisory council.

During wartime, the tension between civil liberties and national security has been a recurrent theme in American history.  World War I proved no exception.  The symposium’s scholars will discuss civil liberties, citizenship and wartime resistance during World War I and how the interplay among the three held long-term ramifications.

The panel will be led by moderator Mary Dudziak, an Emory University law professor and legal historian, and will include Geoffrey R. Stone, former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, former university provost and now a law professor; David M. Rabban, University of Texas law professor; Jeremy Kessler, Columbia University law professor; and Megan Ming Francis, assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington.

Dudziak, who is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory, is an expert on law and war.  Her 2012 book, “War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences,” explores the existential tensions of the state in war and peace.  Dudziak recently completed an appointment at the Library of Congress’ John W. Kluge Center, holding the chair in American Law and Governance.  While at the Kluge Center, she used the Library’s collections to work on her newest book, “Going to War: An American History.”

Stone is the Edward R. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.  He is the author of many books on constitutional law, including “Sex and the Constitution” (2017); “Speaking Out: Reflections of Law, Liberty and Justice” (2015); “Top Secret: When Our Government Keeps Us in the Dark” (2007); “War and Liberty: An American Dilemma” (2007); “Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime” (2004); and “Eternally Vigilant: Free Speech in the Modern Era” (2002).

Rabban was a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2016-2017 Law and Public Affairs Fellow at Princeton University.  In 1997, he published “Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years,” in which he argued that freedom of speech, though repressed, remained a central issue in American politics during the 19th century.  During World War I and into the 1920s, simmering tensions over this long-debated topic came into full view and freedom of speech became the subject of Supreme Court rulings. Legal scholars credit Rabban with rediscovering the long history of First Amendment debates, demonstrating its continuity in American life and connecting it to the Progressive Era, World War I and the 1920s. 

Kessler has written on the creation of conscientious-objector status with a focus on the roles of Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, Felix Frankfurter, and Harlan Fiske Stone.  His forthcoming book, “Fortress of Liberty: The Rise and Fall of the Draft and the Remaking of American Law,” explores how the inception of the military draft helped to define civil liberties, created conscientious-objector status, and constructed the modern administrative state. 

Francis specializes in the study of American politics, race and the development of constitutional law. She is particularly interested in the construction of rights and citizenship, black political activism and the post-Civil War South.  She recently published “Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State.”  In writing her book, she used several collections at the Library of Congress, most notably the Woodrow Wilson and NAACP papers.

With the most comprehensive collection of multi-format World War I holdings in the nation, the Library of Congress is a unique resource for primary-source materials, education plans, public programs and on-site visitor experiences about The Great War, including exhibits, symposia and book talks. 

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PR 17-060
ISSN 0731-3527