Under the Dome

The Speaker Ban after 50 years - the legislature at its worst?

It was one of the most infamous acts of the legislature – and no we are not talking about anything the current crop of lawmakers did.

Fifty years ago, a Democratic controlled legislature passed the Act to Regulate Visiting Speakers, better known as the Speaker Ban Law.

The law forbade anyone to speak on a University of North Carolina camus who was a known member of the Communist Party, or who was known to advocate overthrow of the U.S. Constitution, or who had invoked the Fifth Amendment in respect of communist or “subversive'' connections.

It was rushed through the legislature in the closing days of the 1963 legislature with virtually no debate. It was largely regarded as a response to the civil rights movement, who many conservatives felt was communist-led effort to undermine the American way of life.

Former UNC student body president Robert Spearman, now a prominent Raleigh lawyer, will give a lecture on “The Rise and Fall of the North Carolina Speaker Ban Law' at the Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill at 5:30 on Thursday April 11. At 5 pm there will be a viewing of “A Right to Speak and Hear: Academic Freedom and Free Expression at UNC.''

A three-judge federal panel overturned the law in 1968.

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