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Fight For Your Right to Freedom of Expression

sign that states - parental advisory explicit content
Lesson Plan Author(s): 
Dr. Johnny Merry and Chelsea Ray
Freedom of Speech
Teaching Area: 
Social Studies
Grade Level: 
Teaching Level: 
Secondary Childhood
Origins Item(s): 

This lesson uses Robertson’s article “50 Years Ago: the Beatles, Rock, and Race in America” to investigate how music censorship changed in America. In the 1950’s, music was censored by radio stations and disc jockeys. “Race” music (Jazz and Blues) written and performed by Black musicians was rarely heard by white audiences. Later, in the 1960s, bands like the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones further popularized, and immortalized, rock and roll. In the 1980’s, hip hop was entering its golden age, and was replacing rock and roll as the new “race” music. White suburban parents (ironically the same people who as teenagers listened to Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones) sought to shield their children from this musical genre born from jazz, blues, soul, and disco in the public housing projects of New York City. Tipper Gore (wife of U.S. Senator Al Gore) led the Parents Music Resource Center in lobbying Congress and the recording industry to require a warning label on album covers of music they deemed to be offensive. A handful of popular musicians at the time testified before congress arguing against what they perceived as censorship and a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. This lesson asks students to examine and analyze primary and secondary sources over the Parental Advisory Sticker debate from the 1980s and popular artists’ perspectives on censorship.

Instructional Strategies:

  • Think, Pair, Share
  • Big Paper & Presentations
  • Response Activity

Lesson Materials:

Key Words: 
Censorship, Music, Activism