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Today in Media History: The first Bill of Rights Day came just after Pearl Harbor attack

Bill of Rights Day was established on December 15, 1941 to mark the document‘s 150th anniversary.

A few weeks earlier the media probably assumed this would be a typical history/anniversary story, but everything changed after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Following is a look at the first Bill of Rights Day.

New York Sun Image, December 15, 1941, Columbia University Digital Collection

New York Sun Image, December 15, 1941, Columbia University Digital Collection

Here is a story excerpt from the New York Herald Tribune:

“The 150th anniversary of the adoption of the Bill of Rights, first ten amendments to the Constitution, was commemorated in New York yesterday at many celebrations at which speakers, including Mayor F. H. LaGuardia and Governor Herbert H. Lehman, proclaimed the principles embodied in the amendments to be the principles for which America is fighting today.

….President Roosevelt, in a message….said ‘no clearer and more eloquent statement of cause was ever written than is embodied in the American Bill of Rights.’”

New York World-Telegram, December 15, 1941, Columbia University Digital Collection

New York World-Telegram, December 15, 1941, Columbia University Digital Collection

In 2010 NPR produced a story about Norman Corwin. This excerpt is about his December 15, 1941 radio production, “We Hold These Truths.”

“In 1941, Corwin was commissioned to create a program for the 150th anniversary of the Bill of Rights. The four major networks carried it simultaneously. Jimmy Stewart played the central character.

We Hold These Truths was to be a celebratory piece for the occasion. But eight days before the broadcast, the scope of the project changed dramatically.

….Corwin spent many all-nighters rewriting the program. Americans were now preparing for war, and We Hold These Truths rallied the country.

The program ended with an address by President Roosevelt and a rendition of the national anthem conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Sixty million people tuned in — the largest audience to ever hear a single radio program at the time.”

The First Amendment Center writes:

“When the U.S. Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787, it did not contain the essential freedoms now outlined in the Bill of Rights, because many of the Framers viewed their inclusion as unnecessary. However, after vigorous debate, the Bill of Rights was adopted. The first freedoms guaranteed in this historic document were articulated in the 45 words written by James Madison that we have come to know as the First Amendment.”

The Bill of Rights, National Archives

The Bill of Rights, National Archives

Read more

from Poynter. http://ift.tt/1Ad8jZH

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