1960 March 29

The Ad That Produced a Landmark First Amendment Case


“Heed Their Rising Voices” was the title of an advertisement supporting civil rights that was published in the New York Times on this day. The purpose of the ad was to solicit funds for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who was being prosecuted for perjury in Alabama. The Montgomery, Alabama, Public Safety Commissioner, L. B. Sullivan, objected to general statements about police officers under his command in the ad and sued for libel.

His lawsuit became the basis for a landmark Supreme Court decision on the First Amendment: New York Times v. Sullivan, decided on March 9, 1964.

Justice William Brennan’s opinion in the case is widely regarded as one of the greatest statements of the meaning of the First Amendment.

See the famous ad: http://www.crmvet.org/docs/60nyt_ad.htm

Read about the history and significance of the case: Anthony Lewis, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment (2004)

And read: Kermit Hall and Melvin Urofsky, New York Times v. Sullivan: Civil Rights, Libel Law, and the Free Press (2011)

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