First to Fall: Elijah Lovejoy and his Fight for a Free Press in the Age of Slavery. A Book Reading and Discussion with Ken Ellingwood

Presented by Champlain College
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Champlain College Zoom


Journalist and author Ken Ellingwood will discuss his 2021 publication First To Fall, a biography of American abolitionist journalist and newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy. Lovejoy's life and times provide crucial insight into a central topic of U.S. history as well as its present - the freedom of speech and expression, including freedom of the press. Presented by Champlain College in collaboration with Phoenix Books, this virtual event is free and open to all. 

A vividly told tale of a forgotten American hero—an impassioned newsman who fought for the right to speak out against slavery. 

The history of the fight for free press has never been more vital in our own time, when journalists are targeted as “enemies of the people.” In this brilliant and rigorously researched history, award-winning journalist and author Ken Ellingwood animates the life and times of abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy. 

First to Fall illuminates this flawed yet heroic figure who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for free press rights in a time when the First Amendment offered little protection for those who dared to critique America’s “peculiar institution.”

Culminating in Lovejoy’s dramatic clashes with the pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois—who were destroying printing press after printing press—First to Fall will bring Lovejoy, his supporters and his enemies to life during the raucous 1830s at the edge of slave country. It was a bloody period of innovation, conflict, violent politics, and painful soul-searching over pivotal issues of morality and justice. 

In the tradition of books like The Arc of JusticeFirst to Fall elevates a compelling, socially urgent narrative that has never received the attention it deserves. The book will aim to do no less than rescue Lovejoy from the footnotes of history and restore him as a martyr whose death was not only a catalyst for widespread abolitionist action, but also inaugurated the movement toward the free press protections we cherish so dearly today.

Ken Ellingwood is a writer and longtime former correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. During a career for the Times spanning two decades, Ken wrote stories from more than a dozen countries, including from zones of armed conflict in Iraq, the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-Lebanese border. He has also covered earthquakes in Iran and Haiti, a papal visit to Cuba, street protests in Lebanon and a devastating drug war in Mexico. 

Ken has won numerous journalism awards and is also the author of Hard Line: Life and Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border, an account of his years covering immigration. He spent early years as a reporter in Waterville, Maine—near the childhood home of Elijah Lovejoy, the subject of First to Fall. After nearly 20 years of life overseas, Ken now resides in Burlington with his wife and their daughter.

How to register

Registration is free, but book purchases are welcomed and appreciated--thank you for supporting our author! You must register on this page to attend the event. The event will stream on Zoom. You will receive an email with the Zoom link prior to the event. If you don't receive a confirmation email after registering today, contact us right away so we can check for problems.

Purchase a signed/personalized copy of First to Fall from our website HERE.   Copies will be available a few days after event.  If you ordered a book for store pick up, we will contact you as soon as it's ready.  If you ordered a book with shipping, please allow an additional 7-10 days for delivery via USPS Media Mail.

If you have signed up for the event and are having difficulty accessing it via Zoom, please contact us via email at throughout the event & will do our best to provide technical support as needed.