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In the Classroom > Picturing America Lessons

Freedom of Speech and Freedom to Peaceably Assemble

Lesson created by: Norene Pease

Grade Level: 6-8


19-A Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech, The Saturday Evening Post 1943, 1943

Freedom of Speech, The Saturday Evening Post

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), Freedom of Speech, The Saturday Evening Post, February 20, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 35 1/2 in. (116.205 x 90.170 cm.). The Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust, from the permanent collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Mass. www.nrm.org ©1943 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, Ind. All rights reserved. www.curtispublishing.com.

19-B James Karales, Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965

Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights

James Karales (1930–2002), Selma-to-Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965, 1965. Photographic print. Located in the James Karales Collection, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University. Photograph © Estate of James Karales.


  • Students will understand that photographs and paintings show the ideas of freedom of speech and the right of people to peaceably assemble.

Focusing Statement

Today we are thinking about and experiencing how citizens can participate in local government by looking at the Norman Rockwell painting "Freedom of Speech". We will also look at the "Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights" photograph and think about how everyday citizens can peacefully express their right to assemble to make a statement about voting rights.

Background Information

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
—The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1

Examining Expressive Content

Both of these works of art are about Americans expressing their opinions with the goal of persuading other Americans to support their point of view.

  • What do you see and what do you not see in the Rockwell painting, "Freedom of Speech" and in the Karales photograph "Selma to Montgomery"?
  • What does the Rockwell painting suggest about whom in America gets to express an opinion?
  • What does the Karales photograph suggest about who in America gets to express an opinion?
  • Where do you think each picture takes place?
  • Do you think that you have been in one of the places or attended such a meeting/gathering?

Teaching Plan

  1. Go to the Norman Rockwell Museum website to read the "Four Freedoms Forums" (http://www.nrm.org/2011/02/four-freedoms-forums/) Scroll down to the paragraph, "About Norman Rockwell and the New England Town Hall Meeting." Read it.
  2. Go to the United State Courts website and read the page, "What Does Free Speech Mean?". Also read what the U.S. Courts say that free speech does not mean.
  3. Go to picturingamerica.neh.gov and read the page on "Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965."
  4. Go to picturingamerica.neh.gov, click on Galleries, then click on Themes (Courage) and view both the Rockwell and the Karales pieces.

Putting It All Together

Now that you have some background information about each of these works of art, and have thought more about how American courts have defined what free speech means, What do you think that each piece of art represents about the concept of free speech?


Common Core Standards

English Language Arts Standards » Reading: Informational Text

Grade 6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7 Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Grade 8
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.3 Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework

The PreK–12 Learning Standards for the Visual Arts:
5. Critical Response. Students will describe and analyze their own work and the work of others using appropriate visual arts vocabulary. When appropriate, students will connect their analysis to interpretation and evaluation.

Connections Strand
10. Interdisciplinary Connections. Students will apply their knowledge of the arts to the study of English language arts, foreign languages, health, history and social science, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering.

Learning Standards
By the end of grade 8 students will:
5.6 Demonstrate the ability to describe the kinds of imagery used to represent subject matter and ideas, for example, literal representation, simplification, abstraction, or symbolism.

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