Abrams v. United States (1919)

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Artist: Jacob Abrams

Year: 1919

Date of Action: 1919

Region: North America

Location: United States

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Commercial Advertising

Confronting Bodies: Supreme Court

Description of Artwork: Jacob Abrams and his band of Jewish radicals distributed a number of anti-war leaflets to munitions workers encouraging them to strike. The goal was to encourage citizens, especially Russian immigrants, that it was bad for the United States to be at war. Some pamphlets were written in Yiddish, including one titled, "Workers Wake Up."

The Incident: The Espionage Act of 1917 forbade anyone from speaking ill of the United States' involvement with World War I. These pamphlets were encouraging blue collar workers to "spit in the face of the false, hypocritic, military propaganda." Each member of the radical group were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment because the pamphlets were "obviously intended to provoke and encourage resistance to the United States in a war."

Results of Incident: Justice Holmes and Brandeis both supported the groups pleas that their pamphlets were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Source: Green, Jonathon. The Encyclopedia of Censorship. New York, NY: Facts on File, 1990. Print.