Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On the Constitutional Implications of Privacy

On the Constitutional Implications of Privacy: Aside from a few state constitutions, namely California, Florida, and Montana, there is no explicit "right to privacy" in American constitutional law. Over time, however, there have been various judicial interpretations which have sought to mesh the concepts of privacy and constitutionality. One of the first examples of this involved an 1890 Harvard Law Review article titled "The Right to Privacy" by-then law firm partners Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis. Later in his career, Brandeis would become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and explicate what was perhaps the greatest defense of privacy rights in Olmstead v. United States (1928). Yet apart from Brandeis, one might look to the Bill of Rights as an early source of privacy rights. There are two amendments in particular that speak implicitly to privacy rights, and they include Amendments IV and V. These amendments were at the heart of the Olmstead case, which involved a police wiretap of a suspected bootlegger's telephone line. Amendment IV protects American citizens from "unreasonable searches and seizures," while Amendment V claims "private property" cannot be taken for "public use" without "just compensation." Also, Amendment V protects "mental privacy" in that no American citizen can be forced to serve as a "witness against him/herself."

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On T. Thomas Fortune and Black Newspapers

On T. Thomas Fortune and Black Newspapers: As co-founder and editor of one of the first African-American newspapers since the Antebellum Era, Timothy Thomas Fortune became an influential figure in New York City's post-Civil War black community. The name of Fortune's newspaper was the New York Age, and it published (both daily and weekly) at various times throughout its existence from 1887 to 1953. The primary purpose of black newspapers like the New York Age was to inform African Americans about where to live, shop, and attend church/school in cities. This idea was especially true for former slaves from the rural South, who may have migrated to the urban North in search of better jobs, better schools, and better housing. Indeed, many of these former slaves from the rural South, of which Fortune was one (born a slave in Florida in 1856), were illiterate. Thus, maps and pictures became important sources of information within early black newspapers. But like other African-American newspapers, Fortune produced his with a white audience in mind. Causes such as anti-lynching and anti-segregation were frequently touted in editorials. And attempting to generate cross-racial support for such causes was actually what helped give birth to civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the early twentieth century.