Resources to Understand Free Speech vs. Hate Speech

Illustration of a woman raising her fist in protest alongside text that reads "free speech vs. hate speech"

There have been many controversies in the news recently centering on free speech, with much of the discourse concentrated on college campuses in particular. However, as is likely clear to TIE readers, this issue affects not only higher education but every sector of our democratic society. In thinking about our enshrined civil liberties, it is also important to consider distinctions between free speech and hate speech. With that in mind, the following resources are intended to help readers ponder these differences and consider varied approaches to protecting freedom of speech.

Principal Texts

  1. Areopagitica (1644) by John Milton
  2. Dangerous Ideas: A Brief History of Censorship in the West, from the Ancients to Fake News (2021) by Eric Berkowitz
  3. On Liberty (1859) by John Stuart Mill
  4. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964) by Herbert Marcuse
  5. Only Words (1993) by Catherine MacKinnon
  6. Reconstruction in Philosophy (1920) by John Dewey
  7. Voices of a People’s History of the United States, 10th anniversary 3rd ed. (2014) edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove
  8. A Worthy Tradition: Freedom of Speech in America (1988) by Harry Kalven

On Hate Speech

  1. The Harm in Hate Speech (2012) by Jeremy Waldron
  2. Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship (2018) by Nadine Strossen
  3. Hate Crimes in Cyberspace (2014) by Danielle Keats Citron
  4. Hate Speech (2021) by Caitlin Ring Carson
  5. Hate Speech and Democratic Citizenship (2016) by Eric Heinze
  6. Hate Speech and Political Violence: Far-Right Rhetoric from the Tea Party to the Insurrection (2024) by Brigitte L. Nacos, Yaeli Bloch-Elkon, and Robert Shapiro
  7. Hate Speech Frontiers: Exploring the Limits of the Ordinary and Legal Concepts (2023) by Alexander Brown and Adriana Sinclair
  8. Hate Speech, Pornography, and Radical Attacks on Free Speech Doctrine (1999) by James Weinstein
  9. Hate Speech: The History of an American Controversy (1994) by Samuel E. Walker
  10. Must We Defend Nazis?: Why the First Amendment Should Not Protect Hate Speech and White Supremacy (2018) by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic
  11. N*****: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (2002) by Randall Kennedy
    • It has been Choice and TIE‘s policy not to write out slurs in any context, and for that reason we have chosen to censor this title.
  12. Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim’s Story” (1989) by Mari J. Matsuda
  13. Understanding Words That Wound (2004) by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

On Free Speech

  1. Defending My Enemy: American Nazis, the Skokie Case and the Risks of Freedom, 2nd ed. (2012) by Aryeh Neier
  2. Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent (2008) by Ernest Freeberg
  3. The Fight for Free Speech: Ten Cases that Define Our First Amendment Freedoms (2021) by Ian Rosenberg
  4. The First Amendment, Democracy, and Romance (1993) by Steven Shiffrin
  5. The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump (2019) by Stanley Fish
  6. Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media (2022) by Jacob Mchangama
  7. Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World (2016) by Timothy Garton Ash
  8. Free Speech: What Everyone Needs to Know (2024) by Nadine Strossen
  9. Free Speech and False Speech: Political Deception and Its Legal Limits (Or Lack Thereof) (2018) by Robert N. Spicer
  10. Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government (1948) by Alexander Meiklejohn
  11. Free Speech Beyond Words: The Surprising Reach of the First Amendment (2017) by Mark V. Tushnet, Alan K. Chen, and Joseph Blocher
  12. The Free Speech Century (2019) edited by Geoffrey R. Stone and Lee C. Bollinger
  13. Free Speech for Me—But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other (1992) by Nat Hentoff
  14. Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years, 1870–1920 (1997) by David M. Rabban
  15. Free Speech on Campus (2017) by Erwin Chemerinsky and Howard Gillman
  16. Freedom for the Thought We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment (2007) by Anthony Lewis
  17. The Future of Free Speech (2023) by Benjamin Walters
  18. The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind—and Changed the History of Free Speech in America (2013) by Thomas Healy
  19. In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU, 2nd ed. (1999) by Samuel Walker
  20. In Defense of Free Speech in Universities: A Study of Three Jurisdictions (2023) by Amy T. Y. Lai
  21. Judging Free Speech: First Amendment Jurisprudence of US Supreme Court Justices (2015) edited by Helen J. Knowles and Steven B. Lichtman
  22. Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (2004) by Geoffrey R. Stone
  23. Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (2001) by Robert Cottrell
  24. Social Media, Freedom of Speech, and the Future of our Democracy (2022) edited by Lee Bollinger and Geoffrey Stone
  25. The Taming of Free Speech: America’s Civil Liberties Compromise (2016) by Laura Weinrib
  26. Technologies of Freedom: On Free Speech in an Electronic Age (1983) by Ithiel de Sola Pool
  27. There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech: And It’s a Good Thing, Too (1994) by Stanley Fish

TIE is grateful to the following Choice reviewers and scholars who graciously contributed specialized recommendations to the list above:

Candid photo of Robert Cottrell in an interview

Robert C. Cottrell, PhD, JD

Professor Emeritus, History and American Studies, California State University, Chico

John Finn headshot

John E. Finn, PhD, JD

Professor Emeritus, Government, Wesleyan University

Headshot of Aaron Lorenz

Aaron R. S. Lorenz, PhD

Dean, School of Social Science and Human Services, Ramapo College

David Schultz headshot

David Schultz, PhD, JD

Distinguished University Professor, Political Science and Legal Studies, Hamline University

Sign up for Toward Inclusive Excellence (TIE) new post notifications and updates.

Interested in contributing to TIE? Send an email to Deb V. at Choice dvillavicencio@ala-choice.org with your topic idea.


Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.