Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award

Contact: Nanette Perez

IFRT Staff Liaison



For Immediate Release

April 6, 2010

CHICAGO –Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,“Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008).

The award is named for the late Idaho University librarian Eli M. Oboler—famed as a “champion of intellectual freedom who demanded the dismantling of all barriers to freedom of expression.” The Intellectual Freedom Round Table of the American Library Association presents the award every two years for the best published work in the area of intellectual freedom.

Ernest Freeberg’s biographical study is a masterful account of the life of Eugene V. Debs that highlights the legal, political and social contexts of Debs’ influential career as labor union leader and political activist and the less well-known story of the impact of his case in extending the First Amendment’s support of the right to dissent.

Shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, which made speaking out against the war a federal crime. In 1918 Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs gave a speech critical of U.S. involvement in the war. He was arrested under the Espionage Act for “obstructing military recruiting” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Organized efforts on behalf of Debs resulted in both his release and the founding of the American Civil Liberties Union. Freeberg’s lively and detailed narrative of Debs’ career provides an excellent framework for understanding the ways in which Debs’ case legitimized dissent as an ethical stance supported by the First Amendment.

Formal presentation of the Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award will take place at the IFRT Awards Reception on Saturday, June 26th at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

The 2010 Eli Oboler Award Committee members are:

Christine A. Jenkins (Chair, 2008 - 2010)

Graduate School of Library and Information Science

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

501 E. Daniel

Champaign, IL 61820


Robert P. Holley (Member, 2008 - 2010)

School of Library and Information Science

Wayne State University

5265 Cass Ave.

Detroit, MI 48202


Marguerite Ragnow (Member, 2008 - 2010)

James Ford Bell Library

462 Wilson Library

309 19th Ave. SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455


Carolyn Caywood (Member, 2009-2011)

Bayside & Special Services Library

936 Independence Blvd

Virginia Beach VA 23455

757- 385-2680