1970 December 8

ACLU Marks 50th Anniversary; Earl Warren is Guest of Honor


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), founded on January 19, 1920, celebrated its 50th anniversary with a dinner in New York City on this day. Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren was the featured speaker, and he warned of “hysteria” over “law and order,” and the threats to civil liberties it represented.

The ACLU grew out of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB), which wars formed to assist young men seeking conscientious objector status during World War I and to fight the massive suppression of freedom of speech and press by the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. The NCLB itself became a victim of repression. The administration banned NCLB publications from the mails (November 1, 1917), Military Intelligence spied on it, and the Justice Department raided the NCLB offices on August 30, 1918 and seized all of its records. For a time, it appeared that all the NCLB leaders might be prosecuted under the Espionage Act. In the end, they were not. On January 19, 1920, under the leadership of Roger Baldwin, the NCLB was reorganized into the ACLU. In its first year, the ACLU had about 1,000 members. By the 1970s it had abut 250,000 members, and by 2014 it had nearly 500,000.

Go the ACLU website: http://www.aclu.org

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

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