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Free Speech, Personified

Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, writes about free speech by telling the story of Pauli Murray, a lawyer and civil rights activist pursuing her doctorate of jurisprudence at the law school in 1963.

Murray wrote to the then provost and acting president of Yale, Kingman Brewster Jr., asking him to allow the defiant segregationist governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to speak at Yale.

“The possibility of violence is not sufficient reason in law to prevent an individual from exercising his constitutional right,” Murray wrote. “This has been the principle behind the enforcement of the rights of the Little Rock Nine, James Meredith and others to attend desegregated schools in the face of a hostile community and threats of violence. It must operate equally in the case of Governor Wallace.”

Last month, Yale dedicated a new residential college named for Murray.

"Murray’s prescient words — and her lifetime of action — speak forcefully to us about the essential freedoms at the heart of all struggles for equality and dignity," Salovey wrote in the Opinion section of The New York Times. "As she taught us, our responsibility to protect freedom of expression is all the more vital if we are to overcome the hatred and division that have characterized our nation for far too long."

Read the full article.