"King's Power in Words, Freedom of Speech"


"King's Power in Words, Freedom of Speech"


Teegarden-Bunn's letter tries to walk a middle line of denounciation of the student protests in the Brickyard. While Teegarden supposedly supports the students' rights to peacefully congregate, she disapproves of their burning of the newspapers as a violation of freedom of speech. She makes a pained argument that the achievements of the civil rights movement were due to freedom of speech and Martin Luther King's activism. Therefore to burn newspapers is to deny the very freedom of speech that wiped out racial inequality. Like many students who grew up learning the post-racial ideology of the 1980s and 1990s, Teegarden-Bunn simplifies the civil rights movement to Martin Luther King Jr. and assumes that the civil rights movement is largely succesful and a thing of the past.


Leah Teegarden-Bunn


Leah Teegarden-Bunn, "King's Power in Words, Freedom of Speech," The Technician vol. LXXIV no. 22 (October 2, 1992), 4.




Cheryl Dong


newspaper article


Responding to a column in Technician, African-American students protested by burning copies of the newspaper on the Brickyard.

I admire all people who exercise their constitutional rights as these students did when they lawfully assembled. However, in burning the newspapers these students symbolically, and perhaps inadvertently, trampled upon another constitutional right--freedom of speech.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s strongest weapon in our fight for civil rights were mere words and the freedom he exercised when he spoke those words to an assembly. Yes, he was arrested time and again for exercising that right, but it was his words that incited a nation of people to peacefully protest. The sheer number of people he reached with his words were the determining factor in achieving equality for all minorities, for those in power could no longer contain the masses that flocked to hear King’s words. They could no longer deny the inalienable right to speak freely. In the end, they could no longer deny any person their civil rights.

Mere words, indeed. We can only see the proof of their power if they remain as symbol of freedom; if they remain intact.

Original Format

newspaper article


Copy the code below into your web page




Leah Teegarden-Bunn, “"King's Power in Words, Freedom of Speech",” The State of History, accessed June 30, 2022, https://soh.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/33228.