Joseph Beauharnais photo (born August 18, 1896) was the founder of the White Circle League of America and a plaintiff in the first group libel case to come before the US Supreme Court. [Beauharnais v. Illinois, 343 U.S. 250 (1952)]
Background of the case
In January 1950 Beauharnais was arrested in Chicago for distributing anti-negro leaflets which essentially were petitions calling on public officials in Chicago to stop the black population from destroying white neighborhoods. He was convicted and fined $200 under an Illinois state statue which makes it a crime to defame a class of people. He appealed his conviction--with the help of Chicago attorney Maximilian St.George--which was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court. In 1952 the US Supreme Court also upheld the 1917 Illinois group libel law in a five to four decision written by Felix Frankfurter.
One reason for the decision was the occurrence of a race riot in Cicero a suburb of Chicago in 1951. This was before the Supreme Court made their ruling and was cited for their decision. The seriousness and intensity of the race riot was kept from the general public in a decision made by the Democratic Party, the “business community” and the media. In the Supreme Court decision the threat of violence trumped free speech and constitutional law. The statues of the Beauharnais case is a constitution free speech issue yet to be overturned.
Joseph Beauharnais was raised a Catholic but later became an atheist. He was employed as a manufacturer of religious leather goods.
- ↑ Hate speech and the Constitution, Volume 1, By Steven J. Heyman, page 76
- ↑ FBI file on the White Circle League
- ↑ Photo of arrest of Beauharnais in Mississippi
- ↑ White Circle League of America, Metapedia
- ↑ Power and Rights in US Constitutional Law, By Thomas Lundmark, page 135
- ↑ Hate speech: the history of an American controversy, By Samuel Walker, page 93
- ↑ Hate speech: the history of an American controversy, By Samuel Walker, page 94
- ↑ Hate speech and the Constitution, Volume 1, By Steven J. Heyman, page 77
- ↑ FBI report on White Circle League