1918 September 14

WW I Conscientious Objectors Chained in Solitary Confinement, Dark Unsanitary Cells


Roger Baldwin, Director of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB), on this day issued a report on the conditions in the jail on Governors Island, NY, where conscientious objectors (COs) to participation in World War I were held chained in solitary confinement in dark, unsanitary cells. Conscientious objectors were subject to similar mistreatment, including physical abuse, in military training camps across the country.

The issue of COs was the first issue for the National Civil Liberties Bureau during the war, although it was very quickly joined by the issues of freedom of speech and press, as a wave of repression swept the country in the first months of American involvement in the war. On the NCLB in the first months of the war, see July 2, 1917 and November 1, 1917. On January 19, 1920, the National Civil Liberties Bureau was transformed into the ACLU, with Roger Baldwin as its Executive Director.

Learn more: Lillian Schlissel, ed., Conscience in America: A Documentary History of Conscientious Objection in America, 1757 to 1967 (1968)

Read: Louisa Thomas, Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family – A Test of Will and Faith in World War I (2011)

Learn about the rights of COs today at the GI Rights Hotline here.

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