1958 September 11

Justice Department Drops Effort to Designate Lawyers Guild a Subversive Organization


The U.S. Justice Department on this day notified the National Lawyers Guild that it was dropping its five-year effort to have the organization designated a subversive organization and placed on the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations. Attorney General Herbert Brownell had initiated the effort in 1953.

The Attorney General’s list, which was ordered by President Harry Truman on March 21, 1947, was one of the most repressive weapons in the Cold War. Organizations were often listed on the basis of anonymous accusers (many of whom provided information to the FBI), whom the organizations had no right to confront and cross-examine. A number of organizations were destroyed as a result (see for example, The Photo League, which disbanded on October 30, 1951). In fact, the National Lawyers Guild lost 700 members in 1953, after Brownell announced his plan to have the organization “listed.” The NLG, which had provided legal assistance to Cold War victims and in civil rights cases, was gravely weakened. The NLG fought back, however, challenging the listing in the case of Guild v. Brownell, and finally forced the Attorney General to drop its plan. The Lawyers Guild continues today (see below).

Visit the National Lawyers Guild: http://www.nlg.org/

Learn more: Ann Fagan Ginger and Eugene Tobin, eds., The National Lawyers Guild: From Roosevelt Through Reagan (1988)

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

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