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Tucked away in the northeast corner of a popular London park sits a small site where freedom of speech reigns supreme.

Since 1872, the ordinary and extraordinary have gathered in the unspectacular concrete cove in Hyde Park known as Speakers' Corner to declare their views on an array of topics, many controversial. Everything from Brexit and the Iraq War to gender equality and veganism have been up for lively and spirited speeches and debates.

Men the likes of Marcus Garvey, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and George Orwell have taken a turn at Speakers' Corner, but most days you'll find people decidedly less notorious who just want to be heard.


A man at Speakers' Corner in 2002. Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images.

Despite its serene setting, the origins of Speakers' Corner is little messier.

The location itself may have macabre origins. Hyde Park was once the spot of the Tyburn Gallows, installed in 1196. Onlookers would buy seats to watch the executions. Before people were put to death, they were allowed to make one final speech.

In 1783, the gallows were dismantled and executions were moved to the prison, but speeches and protests in Hyde Park continued. Police frequently attempted to stop the demonstrations, but the people of London continued to use the space to assemble and protest. Close to 100 years later, in 1872, Parliament set aside this particular section of the park for public oration.

Speakers' Corner in 1923. Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

For 144 years, Speakers' Corner has hosted a steady stream of lively orators.

Through their words and photos, you can see some incredible history unfold.

1. If you were passionate and well-spoken, it was easy to draw a crowd at Speakers' Corner, especially before the advent of TV.

A man addressing the crowd at Speakers' Corner in 1933. Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

2. Some speakers essentially became local celebrities, like Charlie in the 1920s.

Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

3. Religious speakers and proselytizers have always been common.

A speaker lectures on "Christianity Astray — The Bible Truth" in 1933. Photo by J. A. Hampton/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

4. Including rising political leaders of all stripes.

Here, a young Aneurin Bevan speaks to the crowd on May Day 1936. Bevan would go on to spearhead the creation of the National Health Service.

Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images.

Now, you may be thinking: 'Hey, wait a second, where are all the women and people of color?'

Great question. They have a place in Speakers' Corner history too.

5. Because free speech was celebrated and encouraged, people of color had the opportunity to speak out on issues too.

Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Women, children, and families took center stage to stand up for their beliefs too.

6. This woman used her time in front of the crowd to sing a powerful hymn.

Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images.

7. And when these women marched for equal rights, their journey started at Speakers' Corner, quite literally.

Their march to No. 10 Downing Street began near the same spot where suffragettes gathered decades prior.

Members of the National Women's  Movement, marched from Speakers' Corner to No. 10 Downing Street to celebrate International Women's Day in 1971. Photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

8. Hundreds of children marched to Speakers' Corner during a school strike in 1972.

Photo by Steve Wood/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

9. And single-parent families demanded equality in 1975.

Photo by Angela Deane-Drummond/Evening Standard/Getty Images.

10. Even with the rise of blogs, social media, and independent publishing, Speakers' Corner remains a popular place to share strongly held opinions.

Anarchists rallied at Speakers' Corner in 2009 ahead of the G-20 summit. Photo by Bruno Vincent/AFP/Getty Images.

11. Or, at the very least, a place to share the benefits of a vegan lifestyle.

Yep, that's Heather Mills. She brought a truck and a weird ad campaign to Speakers' Corner.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images.

Whether or not you agree with the speakers' words or causes, Speakers' Corner is a celebration of free speech and assembly.

No avatars or pen names to hide behind. Speakers literally stand up for what they believe in. And regardless of whether their opinions jibe with yours, it's a powerful remnant from an era long gone.

Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images.

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