The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Expression

How did the Warren Court deal with incitement?

The Warren Court ruled in its 1969 decision Brandenburg v. Ohio that the First Amendment protects even the advocacy of illegal conduct unless that advocacy incites imminent lawless action and is likely to bring about such illegal conduct. The case involved Ku Klux Klan leader Clarence Brandenburg, who spoke at a Klan rally on a farm in Hamilton County, Ohio. He said: “We’re not a revengent organization, but if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance.” Officials charged Brandenburg with violating a state criminal syndicalism law. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Brandenburg’s conviction, finding that the Ohio law violated the First Amendment.


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