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Welcome to the Defending Dissent Foundation's
Civil Liberties Hall of Fame
Standing Up for Activism and Protecting the Right to Dissent because Dissent is Essential for Democracy!
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The First Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Browse All Profiles

About the Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF):

  • We protect and advance the right of dissent in the United States;
  • We translate grassroots civil liberties concerns into national policy debate and action;
  • We alert grassroots activists to civil liberties threats;
  • We educate the public, the press and policymakers as to how dissent is essential to democracy
The Defending Dissent Foundation also sponsors the website Stop Spying:

An Online Network of Groups Across the Political Spectrum, Organizing against Surveillance Abuse, Government Repression, and Political Witch Hunts; and Working to Expand Civil Liberties, Free Speech, and the Right to Dissent for All

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Featured Profiles

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| Pete Seeger       

Photo Credit: © Bud Shultz
From We Will Be Heard

"I've got a right to sing these songs"

Pete Seeger's songs have inspired protest: with Woody Guthrie in a union hall ringed by company thugs, on the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, and before 750,000 anti-Vietnam War protesters packed into Central Park. Because he sang for these and other causes, Seeger was investigated for sedition, harassed by the FBI and blacklisted by the media. In 1955, he was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC).

Read more about Pete Seeger

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Frank Wilkinson

"I outlived those bastards after all."

For over five decades, Frank Wilkinson crisscrossed the United States speaking to audiences ranging from grammar schools to Rotary Clubs to college classrooms. As he did so, the FBI spied on Wilkinson and sought to disrupt his organizing and have his speeches cancelled. Wilkinson sued, forcing the FBI to disgorge 132,000 pages of files on his activities. (The story is told in First Amendment Felon by Robert Sherrill.)

Musician Ry Cooder, who penned a song about Frank Wilkinson, attended the memorial event after Wilkinson died. Cooder told board members of the Defending Dissent Foundation that he was especially delighted that during an interview while writing the song Wilkinson gleefully had told Cooder: "I outlived those bastards after all." That became a line in the song.

Read more about Frank Wilkinson

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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn       

“The IWW has been accused of pushing women to the front. This is not true. Rather, the women have not been kept in back, and so they have naturally moved to the front.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a radical labor organizer, orator, and feminist. She was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and was involved in important early 20th century civil liberties battles including the Spokane Free Speech Fight. Flynn was also a founding member of the ACLU.

Read more about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

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Eugene V. Debs       

“Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Eugene Victor Debs (born Nov 5, 1855 died Oct 20, 1926) was a labor organizer, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and candidate for the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. He ran for President 5 times between 1900 and 1920, and became a target of the United States government because of his success in popularizing radical ideas, and his opposition to the First World War.

Read more about Eugene V. Debs

Chuck-McDew-02.jpg Chuck McDew                         Photo Credit: © Bud Shultz
From We Will Be Heard

"The theory was, if we hadn't been there, they wouldn't be beating us."

1961 The youths who formed the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) withstood terror from officials and Klansman alike in their work to change the political face of the South. Into Albany, Georgia; Philadelphia, Mississippi; and Selma, Alabama, they went: marching, registering voters, and risking their lives. Chuck McDew was the second national chairman of SNCC. He was beaten, jailed, and charged with criminal anarchy for encouraging black citizens to vote.

Read more about Chuck McDew

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Louise Thompson Patterson       
Photo Credit: © Bud Shultz
From We Will Be Heard

“Here I was in prison for the crime of attending a meeting”

1934 In the Birmingham of the 1930s, demonstrations for relief from the depression were as intolerable to the authorities as were those for relief from segregation in the Birmingham of the 1960s. Police beat up speakers at meetings, attacked crowds, and raided the homes of suspected leaders. And the Birmingham city commissioners unanimously approved a strict criminal anarchy ordinance to “curb communism.” Venturing into Alabama from New York City, Louise Thomson Patterson tried to organize chapters of the left-wing International Workers Order (WTO) among the black workers in the South.

Read more about Louise Thompson Patterson


American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC)
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
Chicago Committee to Defend the Bill of Rights (CCDBR)
Defending Dissent Foundation (DDF)
National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC) {closed}
National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
People's Law Office


McCarthy Period
Surveillance Abuse
Witch Hunt

Events to Remember

Ratifying the Bill of Rights


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Civil Liberties Hall of Shame


Joe McCarthy
A. Mitchell Palmer
David Horowitz

Organizations & Agencies

Dies Committee
Federal Bureau of Investigation
House Committee on Un-American Activities

Events, Incidents & Projects

Palmer Raids


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