"A heroic narrative."—One of The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2023
"A detailed examination of . . . the landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision that defined libel laws and increased protections for journalists."—The New York Times Book Review
A deeply researched legal drama that documents this landmark First Amendment ruling—one that is more critical and controversial than ever.
Actual Malice tells the full story of New York Times v. Sullivan, the dramatic case that grew out of segregationists' attempts to quash reporting on the civil rights movement. In its landmark 1964 decision, the Supreme Court held that a public official must prove "actual malice" or reckless disregard of the truth to win a libel lawsuit, providing critical protections for free speech and freedom of the press.
Drawing on previously unexplored sources, including the archives of the New York Times Company and civil rights leaders, Samantha Barbas tracks the saga behind one of the most important First Amendment rulings in history. She situates the case within the turbulent 1960s and the history of the press, alongside striking portraits of the lawyers, officials, judges, activists, editors, and journalists who brought and defended the case. As the Sullivan doctrine faces growing controversy, Actual Malice reminds us of the stakes of the case that shaped American reporting and public discourse as we know it.
By Samantha Barbas, author of Actual Malice: Civil Rights and Freedom of the Press in New York Times v. Sullivan Sarah Palin’s loss in her well-publicized libel suit against the New York …Read More >