Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West

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Overview

Two weeks after the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, the town of Lewistown, Montana, held a patriotic parade. Less than a year later, a mob of 500 Lewistown residents burned German textbooks in Main Street while singing The Star Spangled Banner. In Lewistown's nationalistic fervor, a man was accused of being pro-German because he didn't buy Liberty Bonds; he was subsequently found guilty of sedition. Montana's former congressman Tom Stout was quoted in the town's newspaper, The Democrat-News, "With our sacred honor and our liberties at stake, there can be but two classes of American citizens, patriots and traitors!"

Darkest Before Dawn takes to task Montana's 1918 sedition law that shut down freedom of speech. The sedition law carried fines of up to $20,000 and imprisonment for as many as twenty years. It became a model for the federal sedition act passed in 1918. Clemens Work explores the assault on civil rights during times of war when dissent is perceived as unpatriotic. The themes of this cautionary tale clearly resonate in the events of the early twenty-first century.

"This is history at its exciting, human best. Clemens Work tells the little-known story of how Americans were punished for what they said during World War I: imprisoned, brutalized, lynched. It is a crucial part of the American struggle for freedom of speech."—Anthony Lewis, columnist for the New York Times and author of Gideon's Trumpet and Make No Law

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826337931
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328

Meet the Author

Clemens P. Work is director of graduate studies, School of Journalism, University of Montana, Missoula.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The rebel girl 7
Ch. 2 Fellow workers and friends 20
Ch. 3 Harvest stiffs and shingle weavers 34
Ch. 4 The hymn of hate 47
Ch. 5 Fire in the mountain 60
Ch. 6 Patriotism and propaganda 74
Ch. 7 Up in smoke 90
Ch. 8 Standing against the mob 107
Ch. 9 On the wings of a snowstorm 119
Ch. 10 The pot boils over 133
Ch. 11 Liberty can wait 148
Ch. 12 No possible means of escape 164
Ch. 13 "Good night with Mr. Damned Wilson" 181
Ch. 14 The wind salesman's tale 194
Ch. 15 A contest of wills 212
Ch. 16 "The agitation of the billows" 228
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