This episode begins with an introduction to some of New York’s famous mainstream newspaper publishers and the role freethinkers – including women – played in publishing. “There was a whole world of an alternative press in mid-nineteenth century United States,” declares Helen Horowitz. “And women were significant players in this.” At a time when Darwinism was denounced from the pulpits, we learn how the New York freethought periodical The Truth Seeker and English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley promoted evolution in America. We hear Abraham Lincoln’s law partner’s personal account of the Great Emancipator’s irreligious views. According to Professor David Contosta: “Lincoln was never baptized. Lincoln never joined a church. Lincoln never took communion. And he did not believe in the divinity of Christ.” The founding of the National Liberal League and the National Defense Association (forerunner of the ACLU) is detailed. This episode charts the dramatic events leading up to the imprisonment of birth-control pioneer Dr. Foote, free-love advocate Ezra Heywood, and D.M. Bennett, editor of The Truth Seeker. Bennett’s historically significant obscenity trial and the monumental pardon campaign that went all the way to the White House is documented. “They (Bennett’s attorneys) argued in court that the Comstock Law violated the constitution and violated elemental principles of liberty,” asserts Professor Horowitz. “And that’s an important heritage from that trial.” We learn of D.M. Bennett’s death – hastened by harsh prison conditions – and the monument erected to honor “The Defender of Liberty and its Martyr” in historic Green-Wood Cemetery. Free Inquiry magazine editor Tom Flynn closes by commending the founder of The Truth Seeker and his fellow reformers. “There were martyrs to freethought. And I think it’s fair to look back at some of these towering figures from the Golden Age of Freethought and say yes, these are heroes.”

© Roderick Bradford 2013