Publishers or Subjects of Attempted Censorship
A Florida court said 2 Live Crew’s rap lyrics were obscene, but a circuit
court reversed the decision, saying the music was protected by the First
Alvin Goldstein was an outspoken publisher of pornography and advocate of
free speech who was engaged in several First Amendment battles in the
Arthur Miller’s criticisms of McCarthyism in one of his plays led to a
congressional investigation, where he stood by his First Amendment rights
Benjamin Franklin, a man of many talents, helped shape the U.S.
Constitution and was a lifetime champion of First Amendment freedoms,
particularly freedom of the press.
Benjamin Franklin Bache, grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was arrested under
the Sedition Act of 1798. In his partisan journalism he was accused of
libeling President John Adams.
Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, leading to a ruling that said
restricting publication of the papers represented prior restraint in
violation of the First Amendment.
Daniel Fowle highlighted freedom of the press in the Colonial period before
adoption of the First Amendment. He was arrested for publishing a pamphlet
satirizing the legislature.
Through controversial political comments, the Dixie Chicks — a bluegrass
trio — became a symbol of U.S. political polarization and the First
Amendment’s protection of free speech.
Newspaper editor Elijah Lovejoy, killed in 1837 by a mob incensed by his
anti-slavery views, is a martyr in the causes of abolitionism and First
Amendment free speech.
George Carlin was a controversial comedian whose “Filthy Words” monologue
sparked a Supreme Court case concerning government regulation of indecent
Howard Stern, one of the most controversial radio personalities,
consistently pushing the boundaries of First Amendment free expression
rights on public airwaves.
Hugh Hefner, founder of the controversial Playboy magazine, was a prominent
advocate of First Amendment rights. His magazine was thought to be obscene
Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, an international non-profit
organization that publishes leaks from across the globe. In the First
Amendment world, questions abound as to whether Assange is a journalist or
simply the recipient of document dumps.
Larry Flynt, controversial publisher of Hustler magazine, often claimed
First Amendment free speech protection when charged with obscenity and
Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested numerous times due to alleged obscenity.
Through his legal struggles, Bruce brought his craft more First Amendment
The sedition conviction of Luther Baldwin for drunken comments about
President John Adams stirred opposition to the Sedition Act of 1798’s
restrictions on First Amendment freedoms.
Matthew Lyon was the first person to be prosecuted under the Sedition Act
of 1798. He challenged the Act on the grounds that it violated the First
Photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who gained notoriety for his explicit
images, was posthumously a central figure in a First Amendment clash over
art and obscenity.
The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour led to discussions of First Amendment
free speech as it was regularly censored by CBS. The FCC refused to
Thomas Bowdler edited Shakespeare’s plays to ensure that they were
family-friendly. Bowdler focused his efforts on revising sexual references
Many defended the First Amendment academic freedom of Professor Ward
Churchill after his essay asserting that U.S. foreign policies had incited
the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
William Benbow (1784-1864) was a British champion of press freedoms found
in the First Amendment of the American Constitution. He was convicted of
seditious libel three times.