Origins of Storyline

American INSIGHT’s Free Speech STORYLINE presents an interactive and educational timeline of historically significant achievements in the advancement of Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law from the sealing of Magna Carta in England in 1215 to the present day.

In America, the quintessential values of freedom of expression, individual rights, and governance by consensus were established mainly by a few important Quaker lawyers during the 50 tumultuous years preceding the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

Largely unnoticed for the past 200 years, this important early American history (with its advancement of individual liberties and principles of democratic government), provides a wealth of knowledge about the personal challenges inherent in building a successful democracy.

Overseen by American INSIGHT’s Board of Directors since 2005, research for the Free Speech Storyline by American INSIGHT Interns continues today as an integral part of our mission to “Promote Free Speech, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law.”

The Free Speech Storyline traces the bloody path of sacrifice and self-empowerment as the concept of Free Speech makes its way from the invention of the printing press through the centuries to become the core value of the American Constitution.

Following this spectacular story, as first depicted in a series of murals painted by 27 year old Philadelphia artist, Violet Oakley, the message is as relevant today as it was when it first appeared on the walls of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in 1906.  American INSIGHT Interns interviewed over a dozen scholars before developing the script of our Free Speech Storyline.  Their written and recorded interviews have been placed in our Free Speech Archives.


Behind each person or event on the Free Speech Storyline is a link to more detailed information. For convenience of reference to general information regarding the persons and events listed in the Storyline, American INSIGHT has included links to well-known websites. In providing such links, American INSIGHT makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of the information provided by such sites. On some sites, it is possible that a balanced and objective view of an individual or event may not be presented because of the omission of relevant information or the inclusion of facts that have not been substantiated. Readers desiring to learn more about individuals and events on the Free Speech Storyline are urged to consult sources that have been subject to peer review by other scholars.

We would like to thank the following people for their participation in the initial creation of American INSIGHT’s Free Speech Storyline:

Advisory Committee

Elaine V. Beilin
Framingham State College

William B. Carey, MD
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Alice Carter
San Jose State University

Victoria Donohoe
Philadelphia Inquirer

Mary Maples Dunn
American Philosophical Society

Barbara Franco
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Oliver St. Clair Franklin
International House of Philadelphia

Theodore Friend
Eisenhower Exchange Fellowships

Melvin Garrison
School District of Philadelphia

Jenny L. Hershour
Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania

Ruthann Hubbert-Kemper
Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee

Doug Miller
Pennsbury Manor

Patricia Likos Ricci, PhD
Elizabethtown College

Wayne S. Spilove
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Robert C. Wilburn
Gettysburg Museum Foundation

Brian Zahn
Spencer Zahn and Associates

Letters of Support

Letter - Senator Williams

Letter - Edward G. Rendell

Letter - GPTMC


American INSIGHT

Margaret Chew Barringer

Steven Bogda, Intern
Art Institute of Philadelphia

MUSIC courtesy of
Rodney Whittenberg

Khalid Patterson

Violet Oakley
(1874 – 1961)
13 Murals completed in 1906
Governor’s Reception Room
Pennsylvania State Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA

Donald Gensler
Map of Mantua
(c) 2001 City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities &
The Digital Media Lab, University of Virginia Library

Jerome S. Handler
Senior Scholar, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities

Michael L. Tuite, Jr.
Digital Media Lab and Assistant Director
Robertson Media Center, University of Virginia Library

The Print and Picture Collection,
Free Library of Philadelphia
William Penn map of Philadelphia, 1683

Theresa McCaffery
Jake Paine
Yulia Sakovich

Monica Daly
Melvin Garrison
Luke Fentress
Phil Lapsansky
Gweny Love
Doug Miller
Sally Rickerman
West Philadelphia YMCA
Jackie Wiggins
Jonathan Zellars