The First Amendment and Civil Right Activists.

Among other guaranteed and cherished values, the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech. As it clearly stated in the constitution, “congress should not make laws abridging the freedom of speech to assemble, or of the press; of the right of the people to peacefully assemble and petition the government.”  The constitution’s First Amendment has a significant role in African American’s struggle to gain fundamental rights. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court strengthened these First Amendment freedoms through its rulings in court cases arising out of the civil rights movement. Civil Right Movement, especially the National Association for the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) helped shape and set precedence on the importance of the first Amendment.

The Civil Right Movement was a social movement that protested racial segregation and discrimination in American. The movement started in 1909, with the creation of the NAACP organization.  However, it was not until mid- 1950’s that the Civil Right Movement become a national permanence. During this time, the mere existence of the organization was both controversial and considered a threat. There were many attempts to deny the organization and the movement their First Amendment Rights to speak and associate. However, the organization resisted and fought against the violation of their constitutional right.

Over the course of the movement, NAACP filed lawsuits in regards to the violation of their Amendment Right. As result, the persistent of the NAACP and decision of the Court’s ruling helped shape the important of the First Amendment Right. Thus, protecting the principals and the right to free speech especially when advocating an unpopular cause. Needless to say that Supreme Court cases such New York Time co v Sullivan 1964, NAACP v Alabama 1958 and NAACP v Button 1963 set a precedent and preserved the rights to freedom of speech. The decision arising out of these court cases set in stone the importance of free speech. Importantly, they protected the Civil Right activists and the NAACP against violation of their First Amendment Right, especially in the Southern States.

In NAACP v Alabama (1958) the Court’s decision protected free association of the NAACP from harassment. This case concerned the state of Alabama’s demand for the NAACP to hand over their members rolls, including names, and address to the state Attorney General. The state’s requirement based on the state’s foreign corporation law that aimed to stop the organization from conducting its activities. The Court ruled the Alabama’s law unconstitutional. It held that the compelling disclosure of the NAACP’s member’s list could have the effect of suppressing of legal association among the group members. Moreover, that the state of Alabama did not have enough evidence to justify its action. In another case, NAACP v Bottom 1963, the Court set precedent by ensuring access to courts and protecting public interest group’s freedom to association.




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