1954 March 19

ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Condemns Senator Joe McCarthy


Roger Baldwin, by now retired after 30 years as head of the ACLU (1920–1950), condemned Senator Joe McCarthy (R–Wisconsin) for his reckless anti-Communist attacks. “He has violated the liberties of private citizens by inquiring into their personal beliefs and associations,” Baldwin charged on this day. McCarthy had recently labeled the ACLU “subversive,” citing a report by the California Tenney Committee, which was that state’s equivalent of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). For the anti-Communist activities of the Tenney Committee, go to January 27, 1941.

McCarthy burst onto the political scene with a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia on February 9, 1950, in which he claimed to have a list of Communists in government. The number of people on the “list” kept changing, however, and he never identified a single person. McCarthy dominated American politics for five years between 1950 and 1954. The term “McCarthyism” was created by the cartoonist Herblock (for Herbert Block) in a cartoon published in the Washington Post on March 29, 1950).

The Senate censured McCarthy on December 2, 1954, and his influence quickly evaporated — although McCarthyism, reckless and unreasoning anti-Communism, survived long afterwards.

Learn more about Senator McCarthy: David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy (1983)

Watch a documentary on McCarthy, Point of Order: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EhOdSSI8n4

Learn more about Roger Baldwin: Robert Cottrell, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (2000)

Learn more about McCarthyism: http://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/joseph-mccarthy

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