1917 July 2

Civil Liberties Bureau to Defend Conscientious Objectors, Defend Free Speech

 

The National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) announced on this day that it had arranged with a large number of lawyers around the country to provide free legal assistance to young men claiming status as conscientious objectors to participating in the war in Europe, and also to defend freedom of speech, press and assembly. Roger Baldwin, co-leader of the NCLB with Crystal Eastman, said they had agreements with lawyers in almost 40 cities across the country. The New York Times greeted the National Civil Liberties Bureau with an editorial on July 4, 1917, headlined “Jails Are Waiting for Them.” The AUAM had been formed on November 15, 1915 to keep the U.S. out of the European war.

The announcement on this day marked the transformation of the Civil Liberties Bureau into an independent organization to fight for civil liberties in the U.S. It began as a committee, the Civil Liberties Bureau, within the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) in April 1917, when the U.S. declared war on Germany. Because some of the leaders of the AUAM objected to the Bureau’s criticisms of the policies of the Woodrow Wilson’s administration, the Bureau separated and emerged as a separate organization.

After the war, on January 19, 1920, the National Civil Liberties Bureau was reorganized into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with Roger Baldwin as its Director.

Learn more about the Civil Liberties Bureau: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read about Evan Thomas, CO in WW I, and his brother, Norman Thomas, one of the founders of the NCLB and the ACLU: Louisa Thomas, Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family – A Test of Will and Faith in World War I (2011)

Learn more about the history of COs: Felicity Goodall, We Will Not Go to War: Conscientious Objection During the World Wars (2011)

And go to the ACLU web site: https://www.aclu.org/

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

Find a Day

Go
Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps

Topics

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!