1953 August 9

ACLU Defends Federal Civil Rights Investigations


The ACLU on this day defended federal investigations of alleged civil rights violations in the states. The ACLU statement was in response to criticisms of federal investigations by Gov. John Fine of Pennsylvania at the national Governors’ Conference several days earlier. The federal government, the ACLU argued, “has the power to protect its citizens from deprivation of their rights” and a “duty to act” when appropriate. It is likely that the Pennsylvania governor’s criticism was prompted largely by increased federal civil rights investigations following the release of the report of the President’s Civil Rights Committee on October 29, 1947.

It is significant that in 1953 a governor from a northern state, and not a southern state, criticized civil rights investigations by the federal government. Also, this controversy occurred before the passage of any significant federal civil rights legislation, and the investigations referred to were very minimal by the standards of later years.

Read: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read the ACLU FBI File (not the complete file): http://vault.fbi.gov/ACLU

Learn about the ACLU today: www.aclu.org

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