In First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and the Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slavery (Pegasus Books, 2021), Ken Ellingwood takes readers back to the first true test of the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech and a free press through the story of abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy. The story unfolds during the 1830s, a period known for legal efforts to silence the abolitionist movement by states across the South and violent mobs who picked up that charge when the government could not. Lovejoy pushed back against both of those forces and ultimately succumbed to them, becoming a martyr for the abolitionist movement and a wakeup call about how essential a free press was to a free country and a thriving democracy in America.
Lovejoy's story is worth revisiting now at time when attacks against journalists are again on the rise and the press is considered by some to be the "enemy of the people." Ellingwood does a wonderful job of capturing it in this book and bringing this important time in American history to light.
Ken Ellingwood is an award-winning journalist, Ken Ellingwood has been posted in the San Diego, Mexico City, Jerusalem, and Atlanta bureaus of the Los Angeles Times. He is the author of the critically acclaimed (and prescient) work of investigative journalism Hard Line: Life and Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border. He currently lives in Abu Dhabi.