Wheeler to discuss ACLU’s role in protecting sexual expression

What is obscene? What material should be protected as sexual expression, and who should decide?

Leigh Ann Wheeler
Leigh Ann Wheeler

These are some of the questions that have confronted the American Civil Liberties Union since its beginning in 1920. Though it was founded to defend conscientious objectors, labor activists and other political dissidents, the ACLU nevertheless began to address issues of sexuality almost immediately, especially as they involved obscenity law.

Though comprised of leaders with widely divergent views and professions, they managed to work out compromises and policies that would lay the groundwork for a new, uniquely American variety of protected expression.

Dr. Leigh Ann Wheeler, history and American culture studies, will describe her research into the history of the ACLU’s involvement with those issues in “The Origins of ‘Sexual Expression’: The American Civil Liberties Union and the First Amendment, 1920-32,” at 1:30 p.m. Monday (Sept. 25) in 207 Bowen-Thompson Student Union.

Currently a Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Society, Wheeler’s research and teaching focus on the grassroots dimensions of public and private policy. She is the author of Against Obscenity: Reform and the Politics of Womanhood in America, 1873-1935, published in 2004 and soon to be out in paperback. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to work on her next book, about the ACLU and sexual expression.

September 18, 2006