Sedition and Free Speech: Second Program Hosted by Yellowstone Gateway Museum

ClemWork1The second History that Matters: Anniversaries of 2018 program features author Clem Work, retired University of Montana School of Journalism professor, and his program entitled Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West. Sponsored by the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, the free program is held on Wednesday, October 10 at Park Photo, 115 S. Main St., Livingston at 7:00 pm. This is a new venue with more chairs and no stairs.

Work’s book, Darkest Before Dawn: Sedition and Free Speech in the American West, was published by University of New Mexico Press in August 2005, which led to a gubernatorial pardon in May 2006 for all World War I sedition prisoners in Montana. He was co-producer of a documentary film titled “Jailed for Their Words: When Free Speech Died in Wartime America,” released in August 2008.

Sedition is the illegal promotion of resistance against the government, usually in speech or writing. Governments determine what is illegal based on its regard for freedom of speech. The crime of sedition is actively prosecuted in many countries today. In the United States, sedition as a crime was enforced during the presidency of John Adams under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, during and after World War I, and under a 1940 federal law, the Smith Act, criminalizing membership in the Communist Party. Montana’s Sedition Law, enacted in a special session of the state legislature in February 1918, criminalized just about anything negative said or written about the government or its conduct of the war. Stiff criminal penalties—a maximum of 10 to 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine—conveyed the seriousness of the crime. Seventy-nine persons were convicted of sedition under Montana’s law during WWI; Work’s and his students’ research uncovered many interesting stories. 

Clem Work came to UM in 1990 from U.S. News & World Report, where he was a senior editor. Before that, he was deputy director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington, D.C. He began his journalism career working for daily newspapers in 1967 in Southern California and then in Denver. He obtained a law degree and was admitted to the California bar in 1975. At UM, Clem taught media law, reporting, editing, senior and graduate seminars, headed the graduate program from 1996 to 2006, and edited the Montana Journalism Review from 1996 through 2011.

The speaker series continues on Wednesday, October 24 with David Kallenbach, Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation executive director, who gives program The Call of the Wilderness—40 years of the Absaroka-Beartooth.” And the final program on Wednesday, November 7 is co-presented by Shane Doyle, educator and member of the Crow (Apsaålooke) Tribe, and John Zumpano, local photographer, entitled “Crow Fair: Celebrating 100 Years of Apsaålooke Culture.”

All programs are held at 7:00 pm at Park Photo, 115 S. Main St., Livingston. The speaker series is free, open to the public and refreshments are served. Donations are welcome. Doors will open at 6:30 pm.