1943 April 8

Arthur Garfield Hays, ACLU General Counsel, Quits ABA Over Exclusion of African-Americans


Arthur Garfield Hays, longtime co-General Counsel for the ACLU, was one of many liberal lawyers who protested the American Bar Association’s refusal to admit African-Americans. Some liberal and left-wing lawyers organized the National Lawyers Guild as an alternative to the ABA on February 20, 1937. The ABA remained racially segregated until August 27, 1943. Actually, there had been African-American ABA members in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But in March 1912, the ABA voted to expel William H. Lewis, an African-American lawyer from Massachusetts, and soon became an all-white organization.

Because of their exclusion from the ABA, African-American lawyers organized the National Bar Association on August 1, 1925.

Read his account of early civil liberties cases: Arthur Garfield Hays, Let Freedom Ring (1928)

Watch an interview with Hays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOK6eu9s4Zk

Learn about Hays’ career in the ACLU: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

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