1958 June 16

Supreme Court Affirms The Right to Travel


In the case of Kent v. Dulles, decided on this day, the Supreme Court held that the right to travel overseas is a “liberty” enjoyed by citizens, which cannot be denied without due process of law. Rockwell Kent was a noted artist, with left-wing views, who had been denied a passport on August 7, 1950, blocking his plan to attend the World Council of Peace in Helsinki, Finland.

For an exhibit of Rockwell Kent’s art work held as a fund-raiser for his legal case, go to; October 15, 1955.

Suspending passports and denying Americans visas to travel abroad was one weapons in the Cold War against alleged “subversives.” See, for example, the government’s suspension of the passport of Paul Robeson, the great African-American singer and left-wing political activist on August 4, 1950.

Justice William O. Douglas for the Court: “The right to travel is a part of the ‘liberty’ of which the citizen cannot be deprived without due process of law under the Fifth Amendment.”

Watch a documentary on Rockwell Kent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNLMHJUpzUI

Read a biography of Kent: David Traxel, An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent (1980)

See Kent’s Illustrations: Herman Melville, Moby Dick, or, The Whale (? )

Learn more about the U.S. passport office in the Cold War and after: Mrs. Shipley’s Ghost: The Right to Travel and Terrorist Watchlists (2013)

Read Kent’s autobiography: Rockwell Kent, It’s Me, O Lord (1955)

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