Then and now, fearing ‘evils arising’ from free assembly

“During the antebellum era, citizens in Southern states recognized the significance of assembly and routinely sought to prohibit its exercise among slaves and free blacks…. In 1818, citizens in North Carolina petitioned for restrictions against ‘the Numerous quantity of Negroes which generally assemble,’ and 40 years later sought ‘to relieve the people of the State from the evils arising from numbers of free negroes in our midst’….

“By the end of the 1960s, the right of assembly had largely disappeared from American constitutional law. The Supreme Court, in fact, has not addressed an assembly case in 30 years. But Ferguson — and the history toward which it points — shows us why assembly cannot be forgotten….”

— From “The Right of Assembly Violently Wrested” by John Inazu in the Hedgehog Review (Sept. 11, 2014)