The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Expression

Which civil rights activist successfully challenged a state legislature that sought to expel him for his critical speech?

Julian Bond, a longtime official in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), successfully challenged the Georgia state legislature, which sought to exclude him from the state congress because of his critical comments of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In June 1965, Bond was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. However, Bond’s congressional colleagues voted 184–12 to exclude him from taking his seat. They opposed Bond because of statements such as: “I think it is sort of hypocritical for us to maintain that we are fighting for liberty in other places and we are not guaranteeing liberty to citizens inside the continental United States.”

Bond’s case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor. “The manifest function of the First Amendment in a representative government requires that legislators be given the widest latitude to express their views on issue of policy,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in Bond v. Floyd (1966). “Just as erroneous statements must be protected to give freedom of expression the breathing space it needs to survive, so statements criticizing public policy and the implementation of it must be similarly protected.”


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