1919 November 28

Charlotte Anita Whitney Arrested, Heads for Supreme Court

 

Charlotte Anita Whitney was a feminist and early American Communist in California. Always referred to as Anita Whitney, she is famous as the subject in the Supreme Court case Whitney v. California, decided on May 16, 1927. That case began when she was arrested in Oakland on this day for giving a speech to a left-wing rally and charged with violating the California Criminal Syndicalism law. (By the early 1920s, 30 states had some form of criminal syndicalism or criminal anarchy law. The California law was the most heavily used.)

The Supreme Court in Whitney unanimously upheld her conviction, but Justice Louis Brandeis wrote a concurring opinion that was virtually a dissent, and is generally regarded as one of the most eloquent and influential defenses of freedom of speech in the history of the Court.

Anita Whitney was pardoned by the Governor of California on June 20, 1927. She remained a committed and active Communist until she died at age 87 in 1955. In 1936 she was named national chairwoman of the Communist Party. And in 1949 at age 82, frail because of her age, she was carried to a rally to protest the Smith Act prosecutions of the top Communist Party leaders.

Justice Brandeis: “ . . . order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies….”

Read the new biography of Brandeis: Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet (2016)

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!