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48 minutes  |   English   |  11 December 2019

In December 1965, Ms. Tinker was among two dozen students who wore black armbands to their local middle and high schools in Des Moines, Iowa, to protest the Vietnam War. Ms. Tinker was among the five students singled out for punishment for wearing the armband. Four years later, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), that the First Amendment protected the free speech rights of students in public schools as long as their behavior did not create a substantial disruption. The decision remains the legal cornerstone of free speech rights for students in public schools.


Here, Ms. Tinker discusses her personal and family background, how the Southern civil rights movement shaped her social consciousness, and how the lawsuit bearing her name inspired her to become a free speech and student rights activist over the course of her life and career.

An interview with Mary Beth Tinker for the Julian Bond Oral History Project, sponsored by the School of Public Affairs at American University. Conducted in Washington, D.C., on December 11th, 2019, by American University students Cayla Fox and Liz Groux, members of the Class of 2019.  


This project documents the rise of Julian Bond from his early years in the Atlanta student movement to becoming a founding member and later communications director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to his rise to national prominence by 1968.

This video is for educational use only. Copyright restrictions may apply.


Project Director: Gregg Ivers, Professor of Government, American University


Research and Technical Support: Jessica Merriman

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