Fall 2021

The Baldy Center Podcast

The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade.

Episode 18: Samantha Barbas discusses her new book The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade

Published September 7, 2021

Episode 18 features Samantha Barbas, Professor of Law and Director of The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy in the University at Buffalo School of Law. Professor Barbas discusses her new book from University of Chicago Press (2021) The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade. In the 1930s and ’40s,

Morris Ernst was one of America’s best-known liberal lawyers. The ACLU’s general counsel for decades, Ernst was renowned for his audacious fights against artistic censorship.

He successfully defended Ulysses against obscenity charges, litigated groundbreaking reproductive rights cases, and supported the widespread expansion of protections for sexual expression, union organizing, and public speech. Yet Ernst was also a man of stark contradictions, waging a personal battle against Communism, defending an autocrat, and aligning himself with J. Edgar Hoover’s inflammatory crusades.

Keywords: Civil Rights, Law and Society, Biography, History, Legal History, Reproductive Rights; Freedom of Speech, Censorship


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I think there was probably no person in America in this time who did more to fight against censorship and to fight for freedom of speech than Morris Ernst." 

"Free speech has really surged as a public issue debates over educational content and debates over hate speech very much in the news lately. Those issues are just cresting in Morris Ernst’s time.”

—Samantha Barbas (2021 Podcast)

Samantha Barbas, JD, PHD, Professor, School of Law; Director, The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy

RESEARCH FOCUS: First Amendment Law; American Legal History; Privacy Law; Mass Communications Law

Samantha Barbas, JD, PhD.

Samantha Barbas, JD, PhD

Samantha Barbas researches and teaches in the areas of legal history, First Amendment law and mass communications law. Her work focuses on the intersection of law, culture, media and technology in United States history. Her recent research has explored the history of censorship, privacy and defamation. Barbas holds a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She was previously a professor of history at Chapman University, a visiting professor of history at U.C. Berkeley, and a lecturer at Arizona State University. She clerked for Judge Richard Clifton on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Honolulu.

The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade (University of Chicago Press, 2021).

The Rise and Fall of Morris Ernst: Free Speech Renegade (University of Chicago Press, 2021)

2021-22 Podcast Producer

Edgar Girtain, Podcast 2021-22 Host/Producer.

Edgar Girtain, Podcast 2021-22 Host/Producer

Edgar Girtain is host/producer of the 2021-22 Edition of The Baldy Center Podcast. He is a PhD student in the music department at SUNY Buffalo, where he studies with David Felder. Girtain is a director of the Casa de Las Artes at the University of Southern Chile (UACh), and president of the Southern Chilean Composers Forum (FoCo Sur).He is an eminent composer, pianist, and writer of his own biographies. Girtain's diverse areas of work are often collaborative, cross-disciplinary, and international in ambition if not in practice.

Executive Producers

Samantha Barbas, PhD
Professor, UB School of Law
Director, The Baldy Center

Caroline Funk, PhD
Associate Director, The Baldy Center

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