100 Americans Making Constitutional History: A Biographical History presents 100 profiles of the key people behind some of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases. Edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, a respected constitutional historian, each 2,000-word profile delves into the social and political context behind landmark Court decisions. For example, while a case like Brown v. Board of Education is about an important idea—the equal protection of the law—at its heart it is the story of a little girl, Linda Brown, who wanted to go to a decent school near her home. The outcome is accessible and objective “stories” about the individuals—heroes and scoundrels—who fought their way to constitutional history.

Walter Chaplinsky

Walter Chaplinsky

The Freedom to Proselytize

“These Include the Lewd and Obscene … Insulting or ‘Fighting Words’”

Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire 315 U.S. 568 (1942)

Like most of the adult men in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Walter Chaplinsky's father worked in the anthracite coalmines. Anthony Chaplinsky, a Russian immigrant, would leave home near dawn each morning and return twelve hours later, exhausted and covered from head to foot with grime. Years of inhaling hard-coal dust ravaged his lungs so thoroughly that eventually he was forced to leave the mines altogether. Devastated by black lung disease, Anthony Chaplinsky sold his house and moved his wife and children to a farm several miles north of Shenandoah.

Jehovah's Witnesses approached the family after their move to the farm in the early 1930s. In addition ...

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