September 9th @ 7:00PM:  “What Does the First Amendment Mean Today?” is a program series examining the text, history, and current state of the First Amendment, created by the Ridgefield Library, the Ridgefield Historical Society, the League of Women Voters of Ridgefield, the Drum Hill Chapter of the DAR and Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center. The partners have developed four free educational programs exploring the concepts embodied in the First Amendment from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The series kicks off on Thursday, September 9th at 7:00pm with a lecture by Professor Akhil Amar to be held in the Main Program Room at the Ridgefield Library. Building on the themes of his most recent book, “The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840,” legal scholar and author Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, will provide an overview of the five freedoms the First Amendment guarantees and protects, its history, and how various legislative efforts have been made to amend or limit some of those freedoms.

Amar’s work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, and he has been cited by Supreme Court justices across the spectrum in more than 40 cases — tops in his generation. He regularly testifies before Congress at the invitation of both parties; and in surveys of judicial citations and/or scholarly citations, he invariably ranks among America’s five most-cited mid-career legal scholars.  He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has written widely for popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time, and The Atlantic. He was an informal consultant to the popular TV show The West Wing and his scholarship has been showcased on many broadcasts.

On Monday, September 20th at 7:00pm, join us for an in-person discussion and Zoom Q&A with author Jess Walter of his best-selling novel, The Cold Millions, which looks at free speech and the First Amendment through the lens of historical fiction. Set during the Spokane, WA, Free Speech Fight of 1909-10, Walter’s novel is “set against the panoramic backdrop of an early twentieth-century America that eerily echoes our own time.”  The book discussion will be held in the Randolph Board Room and will be facilitated by Andy Forsyth, Assistant Library Director.  Jess Walter will join the group via Zoom.

The third program in the series will be an online lecture by Dr. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall examining the freedoms of speech and assembly from the Civil Rights era to the social justice protests of today.  This program will be presented in Zoom on Sunday, October 3rd at 5:00pm.   Gloria J. Browne-Marshall is a Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY). She teaches classes in Constitutional Law, Race and the Law, Evidence, and Gender and Justice. She taught in the Africana Studies Program at Vassar College prior to John Jay. She is a civil rights attorney who litigated cases for Southern Poverty Law Center in Alabama, Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.

“What Does the First Amendment Mean Today?” will conclude with a panel discussion in the Main Program room at the Library on Sunday, October 10th at 5:00pm, moderated by author, journalist and lecturer Todd Brewster, and featuring the following notable panelists:  Professor Akhil Amar of Yale; Nadine Strossen, past president of the ACLU; New York Times journalist Mike McIntire; and Ridgefield Library Director Brenda McKinley.

This series is funded in part by a grant from Connecticut Humanities (CTH), an independent, non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. CTH connects people to the humanities through grants, partnerships, and collaborative programs. CTH projects, administration, and program development are supported by state and federal matching funds, community foundations, and gifts from private sources. Learn more by visiting cthumanities.org.

For more information and to register for any of the programs in the series, visit the Events Calendar at ridgefieldlibrary.org