Eugene Debs, Sedition & Free Speech During World War I

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Eugene Debs, Sedition, Espionage, & World War I on the Homefront
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Eugene Debs & Free Speech During World War I Lesson Plan

In this World War I lesson plan, students learn how World War I transformed the homefront and led to suppression on free speech and why Eugene Debs led to challenge that and oppose the war. 

Lesson Overview

This WWI episode teaches Eugene Deb's famed Canton, Ohio Speech that got him arrested for violating the Espionage and Sedition Acts.  It teaches Debs' personal story and what led him to deliver that impassioned speech that day, knowing the government was out to arrest him.  It also unpacks the history surrounding that speech to teach how the war was impacting Americans on the homefront and especially how the Committee of Public Information sought to bolster support and control dissent during the war. Students are left considering the line between free speech, national security, and what it means to be a patriot.

What Students Do

Students complete an inquiry lesson exploring several documents on the debate between free speech, national security, and sedition during World War I, gather evidence, and decide if Emma Goldman’s speech put the United States in danger.

Skill Development: research, critical reading, evidence gathering, problem-solving, and argumentative writing.