The Warren Court (1953–69)

Freedom of Expression

Why was the case so important for the civil rights movement?

The case was important for the civil rights movement because the Court’s decision allowed the press to report on civil rights abuses without fear of being sued for every error. In his concurring opinion, Justice Hugo Black noted that there were eleven libel suits against the New York Times and five libel suits against CBS for reporting on similar civil rights abuses. Black wrote: “Moreover, this technique for harassing and punishing a free press—now that it has been shown to be possible—is by no means limited to cases with racial overtones; it can be used in other fields where public feelings may make local as well as out-of-state newspapers easy prey for libel verdict seekers.”


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