JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.
The term "concerted action" encompasses unlawful conspiracies and constitutionally protected assemblies. The "looseness and pliability" of legal doctrine applicable to concerted action led Justice Jackson to note that certain joint activities have a "chameleon-like" character.
In March 1966, black citizens of Port Gibson, Miss., and other areas of Claiborne County presented white elected officials with a list of particularized demands for racial equality and integration.
The complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of Hinds County by 17 white merchants.
Trial began before a chancellor in equity on June 11, 1973.
In addition to imposing damages liability, the chancellor entered a broad permanent injunction. He permanently enjoined petitioners from stationing "store watchers" at the respondents' business premises; from "persuading" any person to withhold his patronage from respondents; from "using demeaning and obscene language to or about any person" because that person continued to patronize the respondents; from "picketing or patroling" the premises of any of the respondents; and from using violence against any person or inflicting damage to any real or personal property.
The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the imposition of liability, however, on the basis of the chancellor's common-law tort theory. After reviewing the chancellor's recitation of the facts, the court quoted the following finding made by the trial court:
On the basis of this finding, the court concluded that the entire boycott was unlawful. "If any of these factors—force, violence, or threats—is present, then the boycott is illegal regardless of whether it is primary, secondary, economical, political, social or other."
The theory of the Mississippi Supreme Court, then, was that petitioners had agreed to use force, violence, and "threats" to effectuate the boycott.
Although the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's basic finding of liability, the court held that respondents
We granted a petition for certiorari. 454 U.S. 1030. At oral argument, a question arose concerning the factual basis for the judgment of the Mississippi Supreme Court. As noted, that court affirmed petitioners' liability for damages on the ground that each of the petitioners had agreed to effectuate the boycott through force, violence, and threats. Such a finding was not necessary to the trial court's imposition of liability and neither state court had identified the evidence actually linking the petitioners to such an agreement. In response to a request from this Court, respondents filed a supplemental brief "specifying the acts committed by each of the petitioners giving rise to liability for damages." Supplemental Brief for Respondents 1. That brief helpfully places the petitioners in different categories; we accept respondents' framework for analysis and identify these classes as a preface to our review of the relevant incidents that occurred during the 7-year period for which damages were assessed.
Second, respondents contend that liability is justified by evidence that an individual acted as a boycott "enforcer."
Third, respondents argue that those petitioners "who themselves engaged in violent acts or who threatened violence have provided the best possible evidence that they wanted the boycott to succeed by coercion whenever it could not succeed by persuasion." Id., at 10. They identify 16 individuals
Fourth, respondents contend that Charles Evers may be held liable because he "threatened violence on a number of occasions against boycott breakers." Id., at 13. Like the chancellor, respondents would impose liability on the national NAACP because Evers "was acting in his capacity as Field Secretary of the NAACP when he committed these tortious and constitutionally unprotected acts." Ibid.
Finally, respondents state that they are "unable to determine on what record evidence the state courts relied in finding liability on the part of seven of the petitioners." Id., at 16. With these allegations of wrongdoing in mind, we turn to consider the factual events that gave rise to this controversy.
The chancellor held petitioners liable for all of respondents' lost earnings during a 7-year period from 1966 to December 31, 1972. We first review chronologically the principal events that occurred during that period, describe some features of the boycott that are not in dispute, and then identify the most significant evidence of violent activity.
In late 1965 or early 1966, Charles Evers, the Field Secretary of the NAACP, helped organize the Claiborne County Branch of the NAACP. The pastor of the First Baptist Church, James Dorsey, was elected president of the Branch; regular meetings were conducted each Tuesday evening at the church. At about the same time, a group of black citizens formed a Human Relations Committee and presented a petition for redress of grievances to civic and business leaders of the white community. In response, a biracial committee—including five of the petitioners and several of the respondents—was organized and held a series of unproductive meetings.
The black members of the committee then prepared a further petition entitled "Demands for Racial Justice." This petition
The petition included 19 specific demands. It called for the desegregation of all public schools and public facilities, the hiring of black policemen, public improvements in black residential areas, selection of blacks for jury duty, integration of bus stations so that blacks could use all facilities, and an end to verbal abuse by law enforcement officers. It stated that "Negroes are not to be addressed by terms as `boy,' `girl,' `shine,' `uncle,' or any other offensive term, but as `Mr.,' `Mrs.,' or `Miss,' as is the case with other citizens."
A favorable response was not received. On April 1, 1966, the Claiborne County NAACP conducted another meeting at the First Baptist Church. As described by the chancellor:
The boycott was underway.
In September 1966, Mississippi Action for Progress, Inc. (MAP), was organized to develop community action programs in 20 counties of Mississippi. One of MAP's programs— known as Head Start—involved the use of federal funds to provide food for young children. Originally, food purchases in Claiborne County were made alternately from white-owned and black-owned stores, but in February 1967 the directors
Several events occurred during the boycott that had a strong effect on boycott activity. On February 1, 1967, Port Gibson employed its first black policeman. During that month, the boycott was lifted on a number of merchants. On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis. The chancellor found that this tragic event had a depressing effect on the black community and, as a result, the boycott "tightened."
On April 19, Charles Evers spoke to a group assembled at the First Baptist Church and led a march to the courthouse where he demanded the discharge of the entire Port Gibson Police Force. When this demand was refused, the boycott was reimposed on all white merchants. One of Evers' speeches on this date was recorded by the police. In that speech—significant portions of which are reproduced in an Appendix to this opinion—Evers stated that boycott violators would be "disciplined" by their own people and warned that the Sheriff could not sleep with boycott violators at night.
On April 20, Aaron Henry came to Port Gibson, spoke to a large gathering, urged moderation, and joined local leaders in a protest march and a telegram sent to the Attorney General of the United States. On April 21, Evers gave another speech to several hundred people, in which he again called for a discharge of the police force and for a total boycott of all white-owned businesses in Claiborne County. Although this speech was not recorded, the chancellor found that Evers stated: "If we catch any of you going in any of them racist stores, we're gonna break your damn neck."
As noted, this lawsuit was filed in October 1969. No significant events concerning the boycott occurred after that
Before describing that evidence, it is appropriate to note that certain practices generally used to encourage support for the boycott were uniformly peaceful and orderly. The few marches associated with the boycott were carefully controlled by black leaders. Pickets used to advertise the boycott were often small children. The police made no arrests—and no complaints are recorded—in connection with the picketing and occasional demonstrations supporting the boycott. Such activity was fairly irregular, occurred primarily on weekends, and apparently was largely discontinued around the time the lawsuit was filed.
One form of "discipline" of black persons who violated the boycott appears to have been employed with some regularity. Individuals stood outside of boycotted stores and identified those who traded with the merchants. Some of these "store watchers" were members of a group known as the "Black Hats" or the "Deacons."
The chancellor also concluded that a quite different form of discipline had been used against certain violators of the boycott. He specifically identified 10 incidents that "strikingly" revealed the "atmosphere of fear that prevailed among blacks from 1966 until 1970."
Two other incidents discussed by the chancellor are of less certain siguificance. Jasper Coleman testified that he participated
Five of these incidents occurred in 1966. The other five are not dated. The chancellor thus did not find that any act of violence occurred after 1966.
This Court's jurisdiction to review the judgment of the Mississippi Supreme Court is, of course, limited to the federal
The boycott of white merchants at issue in this case took many forms. The boycott was launched at a meeting of a local branch of the NAACP attended by several hundred persons. Its acknowledged purpose was to secure compliance by both civic and business leaders with a lengthy list of demands for equality and racial justice. The boycott was supported by speeches and nonviolent picketing. Participants repeatedly encouraged others to join in its cause.
Each of these elements of the boycott is a form of speech or conduct that is ordinarily entitled to protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
THE CHIEF JUSTICE stated for the Court in Citizens Against Rent Control: "There are, of course, some activities, legal if engaged in by one, yet illegal if performed in concert with others, but political expression is not one of them." 454 U. S., at 296.
The right to associate does not lose all constitutional protection merely because some members of the group may have participated in conduct or advocated doctrine that itself is not protected. In De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, the Court unanimously held that an individual could not be penalized simply for assisting in the conduct of an otherwise lawful meeting held under the auspices of the Communist Party, an organization that advocated "criminal syndicalism." After reviewing the rights of citizens "to meet peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances," id., at 364, Chief Justice Hughes, writing for the Court, stated:
Of course, the petitioners in this case did more than assemble peaceably and discuss among themselves their grievances against governmental and business policy. Other elements of the boycott, however, also involved activities ordinarily safeguarded by the First Amendment. In Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, the Court held that peaceful picketing was entitled to constitutional protection, even though, in that case, the purpose of the picketing "was concededly to advise customers and prospective customers of the relationship existing between the employer and its employees and thereby to induce such customers not to patronize the employer." Id., at 99. Cf. Chauffeurs v. Newell, 356 U.S. 341. In Edwards v. South Carolina, 372 U.S. 229, we held that a peaceful march and demonstration was protected by the rights of free speech, free assembly, and freedom to petition for a redress of grievances.
Speech itself also was used to further the aims of the boycott. Nonparticipants repeatedly were urged to join the common cause, both through public address and through personal solicitation. These elements of the boycott involve speech in its most direct form. In addition, names of boycott violators were read aloud at meetings at the First Baptist Church and published in a local black newspaper. Petitioners admittedly sought to persuade others to join the boycott
In Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U.S. 415, the Court considered the validity of a prior restraint on speech that invaded the "privacy" of the respondent. Petitioner, a racially integrated community organization, charged that respondent, a real estate broker, had engaged in tactics known as "blockbusting" or "panic peddling."
In dissolving the prior restraint, the Court recognized that "offensive" and "coercive" speech was nevertheless protected by the First Amendment.
In sum, the boycott clearly involved constitutionally protected activity. The established elements of speech, assembly, association, and petition, "though not identical, are inseparable." Thomas v. Collins, supra, at 530. Through exercise of these First Amendment rights, petitioners sought to bring about political, social, and economic change.
The presence of protected activity, however, does not end the relevant constitutional inquiry. Governmental regulation that has an incidental effect on First Amendment freedoms may be justified in certain narrowly defined instances. See United States v. O'Brien, 391 U.S. 367.
In Eastern Railroad Presidents Conference v. Noerr Motor Freight, Inc., 365 U.S. 127, the Court considered whether the Sherman Act prohibited a publicity campaign waged by railroads against the trucking industry that was designed to foster the adoption of laws destructive of the trucking business, to create an atmosphere of distaste for truckers among the general public, and to impair the relationships existing between truckers and their customers. Noting that the "right of petition is one of the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, and we cannot, of course, lightly impute to Congress an intent to invade these freedoms," the Court held that the Sherman Act did not proscribe the publicity campaign. Id., at 137-138. The Court stated that it could not see how an intent to influence legislation to destroy the truckers as competitors "could transform conduct otherwise lawful into a violation of the Sherman Act." Id., at 138-139. Noting that the right of the people to petition their representatives in government "cannot properly be made to depend on their intent in doing so," the Court held that "at least insofar as the railroads' campaign was directed toward obtaining governmental action, its legality was not at all affected by any anticompetitive purpose it may have had." Id., at 139-140. This conclusion was not changed by the fact that the railroads' anticompetitive purpose produced an anticompetitive
It is not disputed that a major purpose of the boycott in this case was to influence governmental action. Like the railroads in Noerr, the petitioners certainly foresaw—and directly intended—that the merchants would sustain economic injury as a result of their campaign. Unlike the railroads in that case, however, the purpose of petitioners' campaign was not to destroy legitimate competition. Petitioners sought to vindicate rights of equality and of freedom that lie at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment itself. The right of the States to regulate economic activity could not justify a complete prohibition against a nonviolent, politically motivated boycott designed to force governmental and economic change and to effectuate rights guaranteed by the Constitution itself.
In upholding an injunction against the state supersedeas bonding requirement in this case, Judge Ainsworth of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit cogently stated:
We hold that the nonviolent elements of petitioners' activities are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment.
The Mississippi Supreme Court did not sustain the chancellor's imposition of liability on a theory that state law prohibited a nonviolent, politically motivated boycott. The fact that such activity is constitutionally protected, however, imposes a special obligation on this Court to examine critically the basis on which liability was imposed.
The First Amendment does not protect violence. "Certainly violence has no sanctuary in the First Amendment, and the use of weapons, gunpowder, and gasoline may not constitutionally masquerade under the guise of `advocacy.'" Samuels v. Mackell, 401 U.S. 66, 75 (Douglas, J., concurring). Although the extent and significance of the violence in this case are vigorously disputed by the parties, there is no question that acts of violence occurred. No federal rule of law restricts a State from imposing tort liability for business losses that are caused by violence and by threats of violence. When such conduct occurs in the context of constitutionally protected activity, however, "precision of regulation" is demanded. NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 438.
In Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, the Court considered a case in many respects similar to the one before us. The case grew out of the rivalry between the United Mine Workers (UMW) and the Southern Labor Union (SLU) over representation of workers in the southern Appalachian coal fields. A coal company laid off 100 miners of UMW's Local 5881 when it closed one of its mines. That same year, a subsidiary of the coal company hired Gibbs as mine superintendent to attempt to open a new mine on nearby property through use of members of the SLU. Gibbs also received a contract to haul the mine's coal to the nearest railroad loading point. When he attempted to open the mine, however, he was met by armed members of Local 5881 who threatened Gibbs and beat an SLU organizer. These incidents occurred on August 15 and 16. Thereafter, there was no further violence at the mine site and UMW members maintained a peaceful picket line for nine months. No attempts to open the mine were made during that period.
Gibbs lost his job as superintendent and never began performance of the haulage contract. Claiming to have suffered losses as a result of the union's concerted plan against him, Gibbs filed suit in federal court against the international UMW. He alleged an unlawful secondary boycott under the federal labor laws and, as a pendent state-law claim, "an unlawful conspiracy and an unlawful boycott aimed at him ... to maliciously, wantonly and willfully interfere with his contract of employment and with his contract of haulage." Id., at 720. The federal claim was dismissed on the ground that the dispute was "primary" and therefore not cognizable under the federal prohibition of secondary labor boycotts. Damages were awarded against the UMW, however, on the state claim of interference with an employment relationship.
This Court reversed. The Court found that the pleadings, arguments of counsel, and jury instructions had not adequately
The careful limitation on damages liability imposed in Gibbs resulted from the need to accommodate state law with federal labor policy. That limitation is no less applicable, however, to the important First Amendment interests at issue in this case. Petitioners withheld their patronage from the white establishment of Claiborne County to challenge a political and economic system that had denied them the basic rights of dignity and equality that this country had fought a Civil War to secure. While the State legitimately may impose damages for the consequences of violent conduct, it may not award compensation for the consequences of nonviolent, protected activity. Only those losses proximately caused by unlawful conduct may be recovered.
The First Amendment similarly restricts the ability of the State to impose liability on an individual solely because of his
In Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169, the Court applied these principles in a noncriminal context. In that case the Court held that a student group could not be denied recognition at a state-supported college merely because of its affiliation with a national organization associated with disruptive and violent campus activity. It noted that "the Court has consistently disapproved governmental action imposing criminal sanctions or denying rights and privileges solely because of a citizen's association with an unpopular organization." Id., at 185-186. The Court stated that "it has been established that `guilt by association alone, without [establishing] that an individual's association poses the threat feared by the Goverument,' is an impermissible basis upon which to deny First Amendment rights." Id., at 186 (quoting United States v. Robel, 389 U.S. 258, 265). "The government has the burden
The principles announced in Scales, Noto, and Healy are relevant to this case. Civil liability may not be imposed merely because an individual belonged to a group, some members of which committed acts of violence. For liability to be imposed by reason of association alone, it is necessary to establish that the group itself possessed unlawful goals and that the individual held a specific intent to further those illegal aims.
The chancellor awarded respondents damages for all business losses that were sustained during a 7-year period beginning in 1966 and ending December 31, 1972.
The opinion of the Mississippi Supreme Court itself demonstrates that all business losses were not proximately caused by the violence and threats of violence found to be present. The court stated that "coercion, intimidation, and threats" formed "part of the boycott activity" and "contributed to its almost complete success."
This assessment is amply supported by the record.
This case is not like Milk Wagon Drivers v. Meadowmoor Dairies, Inc., 312 U.S. 287, in which the Court held that the presence of violence justified an injunction against both violent and nonviolent activity.
Such "insubstantial findings" were not present in Meadowmoor. But in this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court has relied on isolated acts of violence during a limited period to uphold respondents' recovery of all business losses sustained over a 7-year span. No losses are attributed to the voluntary participation of individuals determined to secure "justice and equal opportunity."
Respondents' supplemental brief also demonstrates that on the present record no judgment may be sustained against most of the petitioners. Regular attendance and participation at the Tuesday meetings of the Claiborne County Branch of the NAACP is an insufficient predicate on which to impose liability. The chancellor's findings do not suggest that any illegal conduct was authorized, ratified, or even discussed at any of the meetings. The Sheriff testified that he was kept
Respondents also argue that liability may be imposed on individuals who were either "store watchers" or members of the "Black Hats." There is nothing unlawful in standing outside a store and recording names. Similarly, there is nothing unlawful in wearing black hats, although such apparel may cause apprehension in others. As established above, mere association with either group—absent a specific intent to further an unlawful aim embraced by that group—is
Respondents have sought separately to justify the judgment entered against Charles Evers and the national NAACP, As set forth by the chancellor, Evers was specially connected with the boycott in four respects. First, Evers signed the March 23 supplemental demand letter and unquestionably played the primary leadership role in the organization of the boycott. Second, Evers participated in negotiations with MAP and successfully convinced MAP to abandon its practice of purchasing food alternately from white-owned and black-owned stores. Third, he apparently presided at the April 1, 1966, meeting at which the vote to begin the boycott was taken; he delivered a speech to the large audience that was gathered on that occasion. See n. 28, supra. Fourth, Evers delivered the speeches on April 19 and 21, 1969, which we have discussed previously. See supra, at 902; Appendix to this opinion.
For the reasons set forth above, liability may not be imposed on Evers for his presence at NAACP meetings or his active participation in the boycott itself. To the extent that Evers caused respondents to suffer business losses through his organization of the boycott, his emotional and persuasive appeals for unity in the joint effort, or his "threats" of vilification or social ostracism, Evers' conduct is constitutionally protected and beyond the reach of a damages award. Respondents point to Evers' speeches, however, as justification for the chancellor's damages award. Since respondents would impose liability on the basis of a public address—which predominantly contained highly charged political rhetoric
There are three separate theories that might justify holding Evers liable for the unlawful conduct of others. First, a finding that he authorized, directed, or ratified specific tortious activity would justify holding him responsible for the consequences of that activity. Second, a finding that his public speeches were likely to incite lawless action could justify holding him liable for unlawful conduct that in fact followed within a reasonable period. Third, the speeches might be taken as evidence that Evers gave other specific instructions to carry out violent acts or threats.
While many of the comments in Evers' speeches might have contemplated "discipline" in the permissible form of social ostracism, it cannot be denied that references to the possibility that necks would be broken and to the fact that the Sheriff could not sleep with boycott violators at night implicitly conveyed a sterner message. In the passionate atmosphere in which the speeches were delivered, they might have been understood as inviting an unlawful form of discipline or, at least, as intending to create a fear of violence whether or not improper discipline was specifically intended.
It is clear that "fighting words"—those that provoke immediate violence—are not protected by the First Amendment. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568, 572. Similarly, words that create an immediate panic are not entitled to constitutional protection. Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47.
The emotionally charged rhetoric of Charles Evers' speeches did not transcend the bounds of protected speech set forth in Brandenburg. The lengthy addresses generally contained an impassioned plea for black citizens to unify, to support and respect each other, and to realize the political and economic power available to them. In the course of those pleas, strong language was used. If that language had been followed by acts of violence, a substantial question would be presented whether Evers could be held liable for the consequences of that unlawful conduct. In this case, however—with the possible exception of the Cox incident— the acts of violence identified in 1966 occurred weeks or months after the April 1, 1966, speech; the chancellor made no finding of any violence after the challenged 1969 speech. Strong and effective extemporaneous rhetoric cannot be nicely channeled in purely dulcet phrases. An advocate must be free to stimulate his audience with spontaneous and emotional appeals for unity and action in a common cause. When such appeals do not incite lawless action, they must be regarded as protected speech. To rule otherwise would ignore the "profound national commitment" that "debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open." New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S., at 270.
The liability of the NAACP derived solely from the liability of Charles Evers.
The associational rights of the NAACP and its members have been recognized repeatedly by this Court.
The chancellor made no finding that Charles Evers or any other NAACP member had either actual or apparent authority to commit acts of violence or to threaten violent conduct. The evidence in the record suggests the contrary. Aaron Henry, President of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and a member of the Board of Directors of the national organization, testified that the statements attributed to Evers were directly contrary to NAACP policy. Record 4930.
To impose liability without a finding that the NAACP authorized—either actually or apparently—or ratified unlawful conduct would impermissibly burden the rights of political association that are protected by the First Amendment. As Justice Douglas noted in NAACP v. Overstreet, 384 U.S. 118, dissenting from a dismissal of a writ of certiorari found to have been improvidently granted:
The chancellor's findings are not adequate to support the judgment against the NAACP.
In litigation of this kind the stakes are high. Concerted action is a powerful weapon. History teaches that special dangers are associated with conspiratorial activity.
At times the difference between lawful and unlawful collective action may be identified easily by reference to its purpose. In this case, however, petitioners' ultimate objectives were unquestionably legitimate. The charge of illegality— like the claim of constitutional protection—derives from the means employed by the participants to achieve those goals. The use of speeches, marches, and threats of social ostracism cannot provide the basis for a damages award. But violent conduct is beyond the pale of constitutional protection.
The taint of violence colored the conduct of some of the petitioners. They, of course, may be held liable for the consequences of their violent deeds. The burden of demonstrating that it colored the entire collective effort, however, is not satisfied by evidence that violence occurred or even that violence contributed to the success of the boycott. A massive and prolonged effort to change the social, political, and economic structure of a local environment cannot be characterized as a violent conspiracy simply by reference to the ephemeral consequences of relatively few violent acts. Such a characterization must be supported by findings that adequately disclose the evidentiary basis for concluding that specific parties agreed to use unlawful means, that carefully
The judgment is reversed. The case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
It is so ordered.
JUSTICE REHNQUIST concurs in the result.
JUSTICE MARSHALL took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT
Portions of speech delivered by Charles Evers on April 19, 1969 (Record 1092-1108):
"Thank you very much. We want our white friends here to know what we tell them happens to be so. Thank you for having the courage to walk down those streets with us. We thank you for letting our white brethren know that guns and bullets ain't gonna stop us. (No) (No) We thank you for letting our white brothers know that Port Gibson ain't none of their town. (Amen) (Applause) That Port Gibson is all of our town. (Applause) That black folks, red folks, Chinese and Japanese alike (Yeah) (That's right.), that we are going to have our share. (Yeah, we are.)
. . . . .
"Then we are going to do more than that. The white merchants of this town are so wrapped up in the power structure here, since you love your Police Department so well, since you support them so well (Yeah), we are going to let them buy your dirty clothes and your filthy, rotten groceries.
"Oh, no, white folks, we ain't going to shoot you with no bullet. (That's right.) We are going to shoot you with our ballots and with our bucks. (Yea) (That's right.) We are going to take away from you the thing that you have had over us all these years. (Yeah) Political power and economic power. While you kill our brothers and our sisters and rape our wives and our friends. (Yeah) You're guilty. You're guilty because you don't care a thing about anybody. (Yes.) And when you go and let a big, black burly nigger like you get on the police force (Yea) go down and grab another black brother's arm and hold it while a white racist stole him from us, and he's a liar if he says he didn't hold him.
. . . . .
"We mean what we are saying. We are not playing. (Right) We better not even think one of us is black. You better not even be caught near one of these stores. (Applause)
"Do you know Ellis who had a part-time boy all his life? He ain't hired nobody, is he, yet? (No) Then we got ole Stampley, and ninety-nine and three-fourths of his sales are black folks business. He got the nerve to tell me he ain't gonna put no nigger ringing his cash register. I got news for you, Brother Stampley. You can ring it your damn self. (Extra loud applause.) I want some of you fat cats after this meeting who wants three of our young boys who ain't a'scar'd of white folks (Applause) (Me) and we want you that's willing to follow the rules now to go down by Brother Stampley's and serve notice on him with our placards that we ain't coming no more.
"Then we are going to tell all the young men that drive Piggly-Wiggly trucks now (Yeah) (Be careful, Son.) because the soul brothers and the spirit is watching you. (Extra loud applause.)
"All right, Brother Wolf, you're next. (Applause) We got a couple of 'em to come down by Brother Wolf's. We mean business, white folks. We ain't gonna shoot you all, we are going to hit you where it hurts most. (In the pocket-book) (Applause) In the pocketbook and in the ballot box. (Applause) We may as well tell our friends at Alcorn to stay away from up here. (Yea) Now, you say, `What's wrong with you niggers?' I'll tell you what is wrong with us niggers; We are tired of you white folks, you racists and you bigots mistreating us. (Yeah) We are tired of paying you to
"You all put a curfew on us at eight o'clock tonight. We are going to do you better than that. We are going to leave at one-thirty. (Loud applause) We are going to leave at one-thirty and we ain't coming back, white folks.
. . . . .
"We are going to have Brother McCay; we are going to have our newly elected mayor who we elected, we are going to have him around here, too. Come on back, my dear friend. He say, `Naw, brother, we ain't coming.' `Have you got rid of all those bigots you got on your police force?' `No.' `Have you hired Negroes in all them stores?' `No.' `Well, we ain't coming back.' (Right) That's all we gonna do. You know, what they don't realize is you put on this curfew, that is all we needed. Let me just give them some instructions. We are going to buy gas only from the Negro-owned service stations. We agreed on it, remember? Now, don't back upon your agreement. (Yea) I don't care how many Negroes working on it, that's too bad. We are going only to Negro-owned service stations. And we are going only—the only time you will see us around on this street, now listen good, you are going to Lee's Grocery and other stores on this end. Is that clear? (Yeah) (Applause)
"We don't want to go to none of them drugstores. They get us confused. Now, who am I going to get my medicine from? Let us know in time and we will be glad to furnish a car free to carry you anywhere you have to go to get a prescription filled. You can't beat this. (No) It won't cost you a dime. You go to any of the local black businessmen and tell them you have got to go to Vicksburg to get your stuff. And then if they don't carry you, let us know. We'll take care of them later. (Applause) Now, you know, we have got a little song that says, `This is your thing, do what you want to do.' (Applause) This is our thing, let's do what we want to do with it. Let's make sure now—if you be disobedient
"Well, good white folks you have been harassing us all our lives. (Applause) And if we decided to harass you that's our business. (That's right) They are our children and we are going to discipline them the way we want to. Now, be sure you get all this right on all these tape recorders. Whatever I say on this trip I will say it in Jackson. (Amen) (Glory) And I will say it in Washington and New York. White folks ain't gonna never control us no more. (Applause)
. . . . .
"Now, my dear friends, the white folks have got the message. I hope you have got the message and tell every one of our black brothers until all these people are gone, you voted on this in the church, don't let me down, and don't let yourself down. We agreed in the church that we would vacate this town until they have met those requests, the white folks don't demand nothing out of us. All right, white folks, we are just saying until you decide when you want to do these little things we beg of you, we are not coming back. (No way)
"None of us better not be caught up here. (Yea) I don't care how old you are, I don't care how sick you are, I don't care how crazy you are, you better not be caught on these streets shopping in these stores until these demands are met. (Applause)
"Now, let's get together. Are you for this or against it? (Applause) (For it.) Remember you voted this. We intend to enforce it. You needn't go calling the chief of police, he can't help you none. You needn't go calling the sheriff, he can't help you none. (That's right.) He ain't going to offer
. . . . .
"Let's go to the funeral of our young son whenever the funeral is. I don't want you to come with hate because that is not going to solve our problems. (No hate.) We don't want you to hate the white folks here in Port Gibson. That is not going to solve it. If you hate what they have done, I hate to get personal, I hate what they did so much to Medgar, (I know.) I ain't going to ever stop hating them for that. But I am going to chase them in the way what I know is right and just. I am not going to lay out in the bushes and shoot no white folks. That's wrong. I am not gonna go out here and bomb none of them's home. (No) That's not right. But I am going to do everything in my power to take away all the power, political power, legal power that they possess anywhere I live. We are going to compete against them. When we blacks learn to support and respect each other, then and not until then, will white folks respect us. (Applause)
"Now, you know I trust white folks and I mean every word I say. But it comes a time when we got to make up in our mind individually, are we going to make those persons worthwhile. We done talked and raised all kind of sand all day here, now, what is really going to prove it, are we going to live up to what we have said? (Applause) Now if there is any one of us breaks what we agreed upon, you are just as guilty as that little trigger-happy, blood-thirsty rascal. (Tell 'em about it.)
. . . . .
"I go all over this country, and I ought not to tell you white folks this, and I tell other white folks that some day we are going to get together in Mississippi, black and white, and work out our problems. And we are ready to start whenever you are. If you are ready to start, we are. We ain't
"Now, if you don't think it is necessary, we don't have to go back to the church. If you want to go back there, we can. I want you to make sure here that we are going to leave this town to our white brothers and we ain't coming back no more until all our requests have been met. Is that the common consent of all of you here? (Applause) (Let's go back to the church.) All right. Are we willing to make sure that everyone of us will be sure that none of the rest of our black brothers violate our ... (Yea) We are all saying it now. Let's not say it now so much on my part. You know, I'm just sort of leading, you know, how these lawyers are, leading our folks on to say what has to be said. And that's the case. Let's make us a white town. We would like for you to start it. Be courteous now. Don't mistreat nobody. Tell them, in a nice forceful way, the curfew is going to be on until they do what we ask them."
Commencement of trial was delayed by collateral proceedings in federal court. See Henry v. First National Bank of Clarksdale, 50 F. R. D. 251 (ND Miss. 1970), rev'd, 444 F.2d 1300 (CA5 1971), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 1019. The District Court entered a preliminary injunction restraining the state proceedings on the theory that the merchants sought to infringe the defendants' First Amendment rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the mere commencement of a private tort suit did not itself involve "state action" for purposes of 28 U. S. C. § 1343(3).
The repeated references to the presence of a conspiracy might be explained by the court's finding that each of the defendants—with the exception of Aaron Henry—was jointly and severally liable for the plaintiffs' losses. As noted, an element of the plaintiffs' common-law action was the defendants' intentional performance of an "unprivileged" act harmful to another. The chancellor stated that the evidence clearly established that "certain defendants" had committed "overt acts which were injurious to the trade and business of complainants." Id., at 39b. The court continued: "Where two or more persons conspire together, the conspiracy makes the wrongful act of each person the joint acts of them all," id., at 41b; "[i]t follows that each act done in pursuance of the conspiracy by one of several conspirators is, in contemplation of the law, an act for which each is jointly and severally liable." Ibid. Thus, the presence of a conspiracy rendered all of the "conspirators" liable for the wrongful acts of any member of that conspiracy.
"We hope it will not be necessary to resort to the kind of peaceful demonstrations and selective buying campaigns which have had to be used in other communities. It takes manpower, time and energy which could be better directed at solving these problems which exist in Port Gibson and Claiborne County by mutual cooperation and efforts at tolerant understanding.
"No one likes to have to resort to picketing and other kinds of demonstration —just as no one likes to be the target of this kind of demonstration. But this sort of thing is inevitable unless there can be real progress toward giving all citizens their equal rights. There seems sometimes to be no other alternative.
"Objectives of Negro citizens of Port Gibson and Claiborne County are, simply put, to have equality of opportunity, in every aspect of life, and to end the white supremacy which has pervaded community life. This implies many long-range objectives such as participation in decisionmaking at every level of community, civic, business and political affairs." Id., at 9b.
In June 1966, while Murriel Cullens was having a beer in Wolf's Store, a brick was thrown through the windshield of his parked car. He had been patronizing white merchants and continued to do so thereafter. Record 14049. In November 1966, shotgun pellets were fired into the wall of his mother's home. She had received a number of threatening telephone calls criticizing her for patronizing white stores. She continued to do so after the incident. Id., at 14003. At trial, Laura Cullens testified, in response to a question whether she had been scared: "No indeed. I haven't had a bone in me scared in my life from nobody. And I have always told them, they say, `You're just an uncle tom.' And I say, `Well, uncle tom can be blue, black, green or purple or white. If I feel I am in the right, I stand in that right and nobody tells me what to do.'" Id., at 14017.
James Bailey, who was a teenager at the time of the incident, testified that he had noticed that an elderly black lady named Willie Butler traded with a white merchant and had groceries delivered to her home. He testified that he destroyed flowers in her garden to punish her for violating the boycott. Id., at 3656. He stated that he acted on his own initiative and that Mrs. Butler continued to trade with the merchant. Id., at 3660, 3741.
"Defendant Rudolph J. (Rudy) Shields, formerly of Chicago, was the principal figure in several altercations. He boasted that he was `the most jailed person in the Claiborne County boycott.' This man was the acknowledged leader of the `Deacons.'" Id., at 35b.
See also Supplemental Brief for Respondents 10-13. The record indicates that Shields was in Port Gibson for approximately eight months during 1966. Record 4993.
"The complainants proved, in this record, that they suffered injury to their respective businesses as the direct and proximate result of the unlawful secondary boycott and the defendants' actions in restraining trade, all of which was accomplished by defendants through a conspiracy." App. to Pet. for Cert. 57b (footnote omitted).
In a footnote, the chancellor added that "any kind of boycott is unlawful if executed with force or violence or threats." Id., at 57b, n. 21.
"Q. How did you observe the boycott?
"A. I just stayed out of the stores, because I had my own personal reasons to stay out of the stores. There were some things I really wanted, and the things I wanted were the right to vote, the right to have a title— Mrs. or Mr. or whatever I am, and not uncle or aunt, boy or girl. So that's what I wanted. And if I wanted a job—a qualified job, I wanted to have the opportunity to be hired. Not hired because I'm black or white, but just hired.
"Q. And this was your reason for observing the boycott?
"A. Yes, it was.
"Q. And you were in favor of the boycott?
"A. Yes, I was in favor of the boycott.
"Q. And it wasn't because somebody threatened you?
"A. No, it wasn't because nobody threatened me.
"Q. You weren't afraid?
"A. Was I afraid?
"A. No, I was not afraid." Record 15476.
It is clear that losses were sustained because persons like Julia Johnson "wanted justice and equal opportunity." Id., at 6864 (testimony of Margaret Liggins). See id., at 6737, 12419, 13543-13544.
"`They always holler at us to get an education. And now I have already received my draft classification as 1-A and I have got to report for my physical this Monday coming. I am not going. If they ever make me carry a rifle the first man I want to get in my sights is L. B. J.'" Id., at 706.
This Court summarily reversed. The Court agreed with the petitioner that the statement, taken in context, was "a kind of very crude offensive method of stating a political opposition to the President." Id., at 708.
"Aaron E. Henry, a prominent black leader in the State of Mississippi, who was president of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, president of the Coahoma County Branch of the NAACP, and a member of the Board of Directors of the national NAACP, testified that the NAACP `absolutely did not approve of the way the boycott was being conducted in Port Gibson.' There is also evidence in the record tending to show that Evers was called to account by the national NAACP because of the manner in which the boycott was conducted. However, the NAACP took no action whatever to curb Evers' activities in this connection." App. to Pet. for Cert. 42b, n. 9.
Henry's testimony concerning Evers' having been "called to account by the National NAACP" concerned Evers' failure to make proper reports and Henry's understanding that there was a personality clash between Evers and an executive of the NAACP. Record 4905, 4907. We have found no evidence in the record that any representative of the national NAACP was advised of any facts concerning the manner in which the Port Gibson boycott was conducted.
"The crime comes down to us wrapped in vague but unpleasant connotations. It sounds historical undertones of treachery, secret plotting and violence on a scale that menaces social stability and the security of the state itself. `Privy conspiracy' ranks with sedition and rebellion in the Litany's prayer for deliverance. Conspiratorial movements do indeed lie back of the political assassination, the coup d'etat, the putsch, the revolution, and seizures of power in modern times, as they have in all history." Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U. S., at 448 (concurring opinion).