1928 May 9

“There is Nothing to Repress.” ACLU Leader Laments State of Civil Liberties


ACLU Director Roger Baldwin, in despair about the state of civil liberties in the 1920s, noted on this day that the repression of free speech in the U.S. had declined to its lowest level because “there is nothing to repress.”

Baldwin helped found the ACLU on January 19, 1920, and served as its director until 1950.

The 1920s were a very bleak period for civil liberties. The Supreme Court did not issue any strong decisions protecting freedom of speech and press until 1931 (Stromberg v. California, on May 18, 1931, and Near v. Minnesota, on June 1, 1931). The Court also did not begin a systematic defense of civil liberties until 1937, beginning with De Jong v. Oregon, on January 4, 1937.

Learn more about the ACLU and civil liberties in the 1920s: Paul Murphy, The Meaning of Freedom of Speech: First Amendment Freedoms from Wilson to FDR (1972)

Learn more: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberty: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read the 1925-1926 ACLU Annual Report on the state of civil liberties: http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015032603063;view=1up;seq=4

Learn more about the ACLU today here.

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