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History of the ACLU

When Roger Baldwin founded the ACLU in 1920, civil liberties were in a sorry state. Citizens were sitting in jail for holding antiwar views. U.S. Attorney General Palmer was conducting raids upon aliens suspected of holding unorthodox opinions. Racial segregation was the law of the land, and violence against blacks was routine. Sex discrimination was firmly institutionalized; it wasn't until 1920 that women even got the vote. Constitutional rights for homosexuals, the poor, prisoners, mental patients, and other special groups were literally unthinkable. And, perhaps most significant, the Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim under the First Amendment.

The ACLU was the first public interest law firm of its kind and immediately began the work of transforming the ideals contained in the Bill of Rights into living, breathing realities. Read the following highlights of the ACLU's history:

--From the ACLU Position Paper "Freedom Is Why We're Here."

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This site was updated 2010-07-03.