Supreme Court Opinion Detailed Record

Participant Info

Braden v. United States
365 US 431

In Braden v United States, Justice Stewart upholds the criminal conviction of Carl Braden for refusing to answer questions from the House Un-American Activities Committee (convened in Atlanta in 1958) about whether Braden was a member of the Communist Party when, with his wife Anne, he signed a letter urging opposition to certain bills in Congress. Stewart finds the government actions a legitimate constitutional exercise of Congressional powers. Black’s dissent establishes for the record that Braden is a white activist against segregation in Kentucky who was called before the Un-American Activities Committee because of his involvement with African Americans in the South challenging racial segregation. Black writes: “If the House Un-American Activities Committee is to have the power to interrogate everyone who is called a Communist, there is one thing certain beyond the peradventure of a doubt—no legislative committee, state or federal, will have trouble finding cause to subpoena all persons anywhere who take a public stand for or against segregation.”

“I once more deny, as I have found it repeatedly necessary to do in other cases, that this Nation’s ability to preserve itself depends upon suppression of the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition…, Black writes. “ When it begins to send its dissenters, such as … Braden, to jail, the liberties indispensable to its existence must be fast disappearing.”

Return to Opinions Main Page