1933 February 22

ACLU Urges President-elect Roosevelt to Protect Civil Liberties


The ACLU on this day sent President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt a letter urging him to take action to protect and advance civil liberties. FDR was scheduled to be sworn in as president in early March. Specifically, the ACLU urged him to promote freedom of speech, press, and assembly; to restore the voting rights of an estimated 1,500 people convicted under the Espionage Act during World War I; to end the State Department practice of denying passports to people because of their political views; and to change Radio Commission policy to protect the expression of “minority viewpoints;” along with other pro-civil liberties policies.

As president, Roosevelt had a very mixed record on civil liberties. He authorized the evacuation of the Japanese-Americans during World War II (see February 19, 1942) setting in motion one of the greatest civil liberties tragedies in American history. On the positive side, he appointed several of the greatest civil libertarians ever to sit on the Supreme Court (notably Hugo Black and William O. Douglas), and the Roosevelt Court, 1937–1945 created the first significant body of civil liberties law in the history of the Court.

Learn more about FDR and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

Learn about the ACLU today: www.aclu.org

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


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