Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Justin S. Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott S. Liu, Ph.D.


First Amendment, freedom of expression, hate speech, boundaries, Charlottesville incident


The purpose of this paper is to explore whether there is an absolute right to freedom of expression with regard to hate speech, and more specifically, whether tolerance should be exercised toward speech even in circumstances where this speech presents a clear and present danger to the public. The author will use legal research methods to analyze this question. The paper will delve into four major Supreme Court cases in the case of hate speech, as well as the decision by the Virginia Court that allowed the rally in Charlottesville which ended with the death of 32-year old woman. The aim is to determine how the Supreme Court has looked at hateful expression over the years and the status of hate speech in America today. The four major cases are Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977), R.A.V v. City of St. Paul (1992), and Virginia v. Black (2003). Although the case of Kessler v. Charlottesville (2017) is not a Supreme Court case, its significance in relation to the right to freedom of expression is no less than those precedent four cases. This incident and related legal cases bring the concerns about hate speech and the constitutional right to freedom of expression directly into the public discourse.