By Sam Walker
The ACLU was born out of World War I and the repression that resulted when the U.S. joined the fight.
In 1917, war fever was sweeping the country. So was anti-dissent hysteria. Opponents of America’s entry into World War I — along with socialists and suspected draft evaders — faced prosecution, censorship, and violence.
It was in this climate that Crystal Eastman and Roger Baldwin created the Civil Liberties Bureau as part of the American Union Against Militarism. Three years later, in 1920, that small committee within an anti-war organization would evolve into the American Civil Liberties Union.
Since its founding, the ACLU has operated under Eastman and Baldwin’s guiding star: the principled defense of civil liberties without compromise based on political considerations. That principle has led us through a series of monumental events and policy decisions in the last century.
On the occasion of the ACLU’s centennial, this essay collection will explore many of those critical moments in the organization’s history. Together, it tells not only the ACLU’s story, but America’s as well.
By Susan N. Herman
A preeminent organizer of her day, Eastman was a fierce champion of most of the major movements for social change in the early 20th century.
By Judy Kutulas
In the early days of the ACLU, the California branches helped maintain the organization’s radicalism as the national organization became more and more mainstream over the decades.
By Robert C. Cottrell
ACLU founder Roger Baldwin always wanted to promote civil liberties overseas. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur came calling, it was with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
By Steve Shapiro
A former ACLU legal director explains how the ACLU’s broad mission and long history became a source of strength after 9/11 and the government’s assault on civil liberties.