The four people we remember today, Studs Terkel, Leon Despres, Judith Krug, and Franklin Rosemont, shared a bold commitment to free speech. And all of them stood up for free speech in this park, Bughouse Square.
Studs Terkel was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, radio broadcast personality, listener, and activist. But he was also a soapbox speaker. Studs Terkel was one of the lively, free-spirited people who energized Washington Square Park and made it Bughouse Square. He spoke on the soapboxes before many of us here today were born, and, in the 1980s, he helped revive Bughouse Square as an annual event with the Newberry Library.
Leon Despres, Chicago Alderman and activist, and outspoken critic of Mayor Richard J. Daley, embodied free speech. While serving as Alderman for the 5th Ward from 1955 until 1975, Despres opposed Daley and often found himself the lone dissenting vote on the Chicago City Council. He fought against the Daley patronage machine, and for civil rights and open housing. And like other politically active and civic-minded Chicagoans, Despres was a soapboxer at Bughouse Square.
Judith Krug, librarian and advocate for First Amendment rights, founded the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week and led the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom for more than 40 years. She led legal challenges to laws that attempted to censor books and people’s access to books, many of which were argued all the way to the United States Supreme Court. In 2004 she held the ALA’s Banned Books Week kickoff event in Bughouse Square.
Franklin Rosemont, surrealist poet and labor historian, contributed to Chicago’s long history of leftist activism. He sustained the radical Chicago publishing house Charles H. Kerr, helped revive Bughouse Square in the 1990s, and researched and wrote on the history of Chicago’s labor movement, including the history of Bughouse Square. His writing emphasized the countercultural and artistic influence of the labor movement.
Today, we honor their memories with a moment of silence.
And we keep their spirits alive by speaking out!