1919 March 1

National Civil Liberties Bureau Issues Comprehensive Report on WW I Rights Violations


A 55-page report by the National Civil Liberties Bureau, “War-Time Prosecutions and Mob Violence,” was arguably the most comprehensive summary of violations of civil liberties during World War I.The report documented incidents of mob violence against alleged dissenters or people who seemed insufficiently loyal to the U.S.; criminal prosecution of anti-war activists under the Espionage Act; denial of the right of freedom of assembly to anti-war groups; violations of protection against unreasonable search and seizure in raids on radical groups; and the mistreatment of conscientious objectors in jails and military prisons.

Despite the end of the war, the infamous Palmer Raids, which also involved serious abuses of due process rights of foreign-born workers and alleged radicals, were still in the future (see November 7, 1919; January 2, 1920).

The National Civil Liberties Bureau was established during World War I to assist conscientious objectors and fight violations of freedom of speech and press, as well as due process rights (July 4, 1917; November 1, 1917). On January 19, 1920, the leaders of the NCLB reorganized into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with Roger Baldwin as its Executive Director.

Read the 55-page report: http://libcudl.colorado.edu/wwi/pdf/i73549228.pdf

Learn more: Paul Murphy, World War I and the Origins of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

Learn about the ACLU during times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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