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American Civil Liberties Union Archives, 1917-1950: Series 1: The Roger Baldwin Years: Subject Index

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Introduction: American Civil Liberties Union Archives: The Roger BaldwinYears, 1917-1950

Introduction:American Civil Liberties Union Archives: The Roger Baldwin Years, 1917-1950


For the last seventy-five years the American Civil LibertiesUnion (ACLU) has been the principal defender of the rights that citizens canassert against government. Its primary aims have been the defense of thefreedoms of speech and press, the separation of church and state, the freeexercise of religion, due process of law, equal protection of the law andprivacy rights of all citizens. The organization has been responsible for whathistorian Samuel Walker has called a revolution of law and public attitudestoward individual liberty. Walker estimates that modern constitutional law hasbeen shaped in no small measure by the ACLU, with the organization involved in some80 percent of the landmark cases of the twentieth century. The ACLU hasfostered the growth of tolerance, fought to end racial discrimination, promoteda legal definition of privacy rights, and defended the rights of the unpopular,the powerless, and the despised.


Origins of the ACLU


The ACLU began as part of the American Union AgainstMilitarism (AUAM), which had been formed in New York in 1914 to oppose Americanentry into World War I. Following the declaration of war in 1917, CrystalEastman, AUAMs Executive Secretary, and Roger Baldwin, a social workerinvolved in juvenile justice, established the Bureau of Conscientious Objectorsto oppose the new draft law and to advise conscientious objectors. On July 1,1917, the AUAM created the Civil Liberties Bureau, which became an independentorganization known as the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) on October 1,1917. Once Eastman and Baldwin took their efforts to this new organization, theAUAM quickly folded.


The NCLB had two main tasks: to defend the rights ofconscientious objectors imprisoned in camps around the country and to fight theincreasing suppression of free speech by both government officials andconservative patriotic societies. Its leadership came from a mix of socialworkers such as Baldwin and Eastman, Protestant clergy (Norman Thomas, Harry F.War, and John Haynes Holmes), and lawyers (Walter Nelles, Albert DeSilver, L.Hollingsworth Wood, and Clarence Darrow).


The NCLB sponsored three tests of free speech rights duringwartime, all of which ended in failure for the organization. Socialist Partyleader Charles T. Schenck was denied the right to mail antiwar and antidraftliterature in a case that established Justice Oliver Wendell Holmess clearand present danger test. Also upheld were convictions of Eugene Debs forcondemning war and capitalism in a speech and Jacob Abrams for distributingleaflets opposing the American intervention in Russia.


By late 1918, Roger Baldwin had become the leader of theorganization due to Eastmans ill health. Baldwin was gifted with the abilityto build an organization due to his effectiveness as a publicist, fundraiser,and administrator. Although Baldwin favored public education and reasoning withpublic officials, he soon became a target. The NCLBs defense of the IndustrialWorkers of the World led to investigations by army intelligence and the Bureauof Investigation and to phone taps. On August 31, 1918, federal agents seizedthe NCLBs files, which were eventually used by New York States Lusk Committeeprior to their return to the NCLB.


When Congress extended the draft to age 35 late in the war,Baldwin notified his draft board that he would refuse induction. Imprisoned inNovember 1918, Baldwin used the time until his release the following July toread, write, create a prisoners self-help group, issue a mimeographednewsletter on life in prison, and organize the NCLBs records.


The postwar Red Scare, the Palmer raids, new laws oncriminal syndicalism and use of red flags, and the need to repeal the EspionageAct and to secure amnesty for wartime dissidents led to calls for a permanentorganization after the war. On January 19, 1920, the ACLU received its charterin New York.


ACLU during the 1920s


The ACLU started its career with a bang, issuing a Reportupon the Illegal Practices of the United States Department of Justicewritten by twelve prominent lawyers, including Zechariah Chaffee and FelixFrankfurter. In these early years, Baldwin generally favored working for thecause of labor as a more effective means for obtaining desired changes insociety. The failure of litigation efforts during the war probably influencedthis early course. Thus, during the 1920s the ACLU was substantially involvedin efforts to strengthen the labor movement, and it continued to work foramnesty, to repeal criminal syndicalism laws, to oppose compulsory militarytraining on campuses, and to ward off attacks by right-wing groups. It foughtbook bans by the Customs Service and Post Office, promoted racial justice whiledefending the Ku Klux Klans right to march and opposing the NAACPs attempt toban Birth of a Nation, and defended the rights of Communists to freespeech and applied the same standard to Henry Fords anti-Semitic works.


The ACLU remained a relatively small organization throughoutthis period, with 2,500 members in 1930 and a budget of only $25,000 annually.While there was a National Committee a letterhead group of sixty persons thatmet annually decisions were made by a small Executive Committee, which metweekly, and by a governing Board. The heart of the leadership consisted ofBaldwin and his fellow pacifists Norman Thomas, John Haynes Holmes, L.Hollingsworth Wood, and John Nevin Sayre. Baldwin tended to be an autocrat whodid not easily share power. Only three of the twenty Executive Committeemembers were lawyers, and the position of General Counsel was not created until1929. The organization did not seek a broad constituency and found recruitinglabor leaders and conservatives to its Board a difficult task. Baldwinrecruited most local correspondents during his annual tours around the country.During the 1920s most financial support came from Albert DeSilver (and hiswidow following his death) and from the American Fund for Public Service(generally known as the Garland Fund), a private foundation to support socialreform, which the ACLU basically administered until it failed during the stockmarket crash.


Throughout the 1920s labor and political speech issuespredominated. The organization remained silent on such issues as the VolsteadAct, the Olmstead wiretapping case,and other due process or privacy law questions. The ACLUs greatest claim tofame during this decade was its offer to defend anyone willing to challenge theTennessee law forbidding teaching the theory of evolution. Clarence Darrow andArthur Hays, backed by the ACLU, defended John T. Scopes in the famous Dayton,Tennessee, Monkey Trial. Live radio coverage and an enormous press cadre (ledby five Baltimore Sun reporters, including H.L. Mencken) made the publicaware of the ACLU and helped the organization raise funds.


Other major activities prior to the New Deal included adefense of picketing by laborers in Paterson, New Jersey, establishment of theprinciple of the incorporation of free speech and press freedoms under the dueprocess clause of the 14th Amendment in Gitlowv. U.S., the unsuccessful appeal to Charlotte Whitneys conviction fororganizing on behalf of the Communist Labor Party in California, a reversal ofHarold Fiskes conviction as an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizerin Kansas, and foundation of the right to counsel in capital cases in theScottsboro Boys appeals.


In the area of censorship, the ACLU led a march to protest aBoston ban of Menckens American Mercury, defended Margaret Sangersright to deliver a speech on birth control, stopped a Post Office ban on MaryWare Dennetts pamphlet The Sex Side of Life, supported a case thatended a Customs Service prohibition on the importation of James Joyces Ulysses,aided Yetta Sternberg in a California case banning the display of a red flag,and established limits on prior restraint on the press in the Near v. Minnesota case.


In 1929, Baldwin proposed a broad expansion plan for the organizationto include increased interest in civil rights, Native Americans, policebrutality, and alien rights; opposition to compulsory military training andcensorship; and extension of civil liberties efforts to the internationalarena. The result was an increase in subject committees (for instance, LaborInjunctions and Indian Civil Rights) and a larger network of regional affiliateorganizations.


Baldwin continued to try to work from within the government.The Wickersham Commission hired Walter Pollak, Zechariah Chaffee, and CarlStern on Waldwins recommendation, and its report, Lawlessness in LawEnforcement, was a major bombshell. The Indian Civil Rights Committee helda day-long conference in 1933 that helped to shape the Indian Reorganization Actof 1934. In 1931 the ACLU published Black Justice, and Morris Ernst, aschair of the Garland Funds Committee on Negro Work, issued the Margold Reportsuggesting the need for a legal attack on segregation.


Throughout these years and later, the ACLU was by no meansmonolithic, and vigorous debates raged over many of the policy decisions withinthe organization. For example, the religious element in the organization wasnot unalterably opposed to Bible reading and release time in schools. Whilesome favored turning to the courts to effect changes, others believed thatpublic education, strikes, and working for legislative and administrativechange would prove more effective. Some preferred broad legal challenges, whileothers wanted narrower tests designed to achieve the desired result inparticular cases. The debates in the records of committee and board meetingsprovide lively and rich documentation of the activities and struggles of theorganization.


The New Deal


Given its history of opposition to government power, theACLU viewed President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal with misgivings.The economic situation had led to increased repression of labor, lynchings, anddeportations, but the notion of granting more power to the same government thathad been the cause of repression during World War I did not sit well with manyin the organization.


Throughout the 1930s the ACLU continued to defend freeexpression, asserting the rights of the German-American Bund in Shall WeDefend Free Speech for Nazis in America (1934) and commissioning twostudies of Nazis in America (Shirts!)and of the effects of anti-Fascist laws in Europe. The ACLU opposed Catholicefforts to censor printed works, movies, and information on contraception,thereby leading to the resignation of Rev. John Ryan from the NationalCommittee in 1934. Baldwin also appeared regularly on the CBS radio program,Let Freedom Ring, during the 1930s. Other important activities includedopposition to Boss Frank Hagues limits on union activities in Jersey City,cases to extend free speech rights to Communists, a series of JehovahsWitnesses cases involving flag salutes and permits for literature distribution,and the National Labor Relations Boards attacks on Henry Fords free speechrights.


The most difficult aspect of the New Deal years for the ACLUwas its relationship to the Communist Party. The ACLUs bail fund had beenseriously affected when five Communist Party members jumped bail and fled tothe Soviet Union in 1930. Yet the two organizations had worked together inScottsboro, the DeJonge and Herndon free speech cases, and in theInternational Juridical Association, Thus, when the Popular Front was organizedby the Communist Party in the 1930s, the ACLU and Baldwin joined the effort becausehe was ever a coalition builder. Opponents continued to allege that the ACLUwas a Communist front, especially since Harry Ward chaired both the ACLU andthe American League for Peace and Democracy, the largest of the Popular Frontorganizations.


Communist Party attacks on a Socialist Party rally inMadison Square Garden in 1934 led Norman Thomas and John Haynes Holmes to callfor banning Communists from ACLU leadership. In this same decade, the DiesCommittee (the House Committee on Un-American Activities, popularly known asHUAC) concluded after its first hearings that one could not say with certaintywhether or not the ACLU was a Communist organization. The ACLU responded byleading efforts to abolish the Dies Committee, assigning Abraham Isserman towrite the first systematic analysis of the rights of witnesses beforeinvestigative committees (a report that Baldwin suppressed, perhaps in anagreement with HUAC), and working to clear the ACLU name. HUAC raids beginningin 1939, passage of the Smith Act in 1940, and state laws banning the CommunistParty from the ballot served to increase concern about totalitarianorganizations. In response to these growing concerns, the ACLU in 1940 adopteda policy barring Communist Party members from official positions in theorganization and thus leading to the ouster of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn from theBoard and to the resignations of several others, including Harry Ward.


The 1930s witnessed an expansion of ACLU affiliates to St.Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Iowa, Indiana, andTexas. By 1939 five affiliates had paid staff. At the New York headquarters,the ACLU hired its first staff counsel in 1941.


Civil Libertiesduring Wartime


Following the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939, the ACLUorganized a conference on Civil Liberties in the National Emergency that waskeynoted by Attorney General Frank Murphy. Lucille Milner wrote populararticles on conscientious objection and freedom of speech during wartime,thereby carrying the ACLU message to the general public. When war came in 1941,President Roosevelt pledged to continue constitutional freedoms even in a stateof war, a policy generally followed except for one glaring exception.Immediately after Pearl Harbor Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, whichcreated military zones to be run by the War Relocation Authority to internJapanese aliens and Japanese-American citizens. The ACLU denounced the order ascontrary to liberty and due process and as racially motivated since it appliedonly to Japanese.


While Western affiliates sought test cases, an activity madedifficult by Japanese acquiescence, the ACLU split on the question of what werethe limits of government power during wartime. A resolution approved thePresidents order in principle but provided four technical bases for bringingchallenges to the order. Similarly, the ACLU voted not to oppose a peacetimedraft that included good protections for conscientious objectors (although thelaw did not provide political grounds for objection) and adopted the Seymourresolution not to defend individuals charged with sedition when no due processviolations were involved. The national organizations willingness to compromiseon civil liberties issues during wartime led to considerable opposition fromaffiliates, especially those on the West Coast. Eventually the ACLU handled twoleading cases involving the internment camps, Korematsu and Hirabayashi.


The ACLU also created new committees during the war: theNational Committee on Conscientious Objectors, headed by Ernest Angell who metwith President Roosevelt on the matter; the Committee Against RacialDiscrimination, chaired by Pearl Buck; and the Committee on DiscriminationAgainst Women, led by Dorothy Kenyon. ACLUs strong support for civil rightsled to a split with some of its old labor allies. The ACLU supported a bill ofrights for union members and the growing movement for democracy in tradeunions. The ACLU also aided the NAACP in cases that overthrew the white primaryand restrictive covenants, and even took on a test of the segregated draft inthe Winfred Lynn case which the NAACP would not accept.


Postwar Problems


The ACLUs long-standing debate regarding its relationshipto the Communist Party in many ways limited its response to the Cold Waranti-Communist crusade that followed the war. Conservatives on the board, ledby Norman Thomas and Morris Ernst, were strongly anti-Communist.


The basic elements of the postwar attack on civil libertieswere already in place even before the war began: HUAC, the Smith Act, stateloyalty oaths, and FBI surveillance on individuals and organizations. WhenPresident Harry Truman issued E.O. 9835 establishing the federal loyaltyprogram, the ACLU opted for quiet court tests and lobbying Attorney General TomClark instead of a public opposition to the basic tenets of the order.


Baldwin, an activist throughout his life, had associationswith many of the organizations found on the Attorney Generals list ofCommunist Party affiliates. He therefore protected himself by regular attackson the Communist Party which only served to limit his ability to oppose theinternal security crusade. The ACLU sought to protect the rights of HUACwitnesses rather than take on HUAC itself.


The Smith Act cases, which Judge Harold Medina presided overin New York, led to convictions of the defendants for membership in theCommunist Party. Moreover, Medinas contempt citations put a chill on lawyerswho might have defended clients. When the Supreme Courts Dennis decision sustained the Smith Act, a dissident group of ACLUmembers, led by Corliss Lamont, left to form the Emergency Civil LibertiesCommittee to pay more attention to trial-level support rather than waiting forthe appeals process, which had been the ACLUs forte. The ACLU also refused topursue allegations of FBI abuse, often providing an active apology for theBureau.


Even in this era the ACLU remained a small organization witha membership of fewer than 10,000. Of its affiliates, only Boston, Chicago, SanFrancisco, and Los Angeles had paid staff. In response to the need for astronger national organization, to the criticism of the Lamont faction, and tothe perception that the ACLU had not responded effectively to the attacks ofthe anti-Communist crusade, in 1948 the Special Committee on Policy Planning,under Walter Gellhorn, urged that the ACLU become less involved in litigationand provide more public education. The Committee named civil rights and thefight against censorship as the key issues for the future and downplayed oldcauses such as church-state questions and defense of minority parties. Finally,the Committee recommended that Roger Baldwin be relieved from executiveresponsibilities and given an ambassadorial role of speaking, writing, andmaintaining relations with other organizations. As a result of thisrecommendation, Baldwin retired as Executive Director in 1950, at the close ofthe organizations first thirty years, the period covered by this microfilmedition.




The microfilm edition of the ACLU records covers the periodfrom 1917 to 1950. It consists of the 1886 bound volumes of records through theyear 1946, and 226 "volumes" of loose records for the 1946 to 1950period, and three records center boxes known as Appendixes 1-3, which coverindexed material not previously filmed, mostly from 1940 to 1946. There is asmall amount of material relating to an Industrial Workers of the World freespeech trial in San Diego, California, in 1912 which antedates the creation ofthe ACLU and whose origin is unknown. As described below, some ACLU-relatedmaterials during this period have not been filmed in this collection.


The Nature of theRecords


The volumes are generally devoted either to clippings or tocorrespondence, with each volume then relating to a single type of record,although sometimes there are several series in a single volume. The serieslists that follow provide access by series even though the locations of theinformation are spread throughout the volumes.


While it is impossible to detail all of the informationfound in this massive collection, some sense can be given from two examples.The conscientious objector issue during World War I fills over 37 volumes. TheACLU received hundreds of letters from people objecting to military service.Some belonged to pacifist religions, while others belonged to political groupsopposed to the war. Some of the letters and diaries contain statements ofbelief and vivid accounts of camp and prison conditions, and some describenoncombative service. ACLU supporters also reported on the treatment ofconscientious objectors. When the ACLU took cases, its files include legalbriefs, depositions, affidavits, and court transcripts, as well as informalreports. In controversial cases, the files contain letters from officials inPresident Woodrow Wilson's administration and letters from other figures suchas Felix Frankfurter, John Dewey, Upton Sinclair, Jane Addams, and LillianWaldo Some cases generated extensive press coverage, much of it simply filed asclippings; for example, records document the ACLU's campaign to stop thepractice of chaining objectors to the bars of their cells. The records alsoreveal the personal concerns of Roger Baldwin and the political and legalpreoccupations of his supporters.


The quality of material on labor issues matches that of thematerial on conscientious objectors. The files hold the letters of unionorganizers, labor activists, and members of the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW). Some letters describe the ill treatment at the hands of the law, mobviolence, and lynchings; others describe working conditions in mines,factories, and lumber mills. The ACLU files include memoranda and trialdocuments such as the record of the ACLU involvement in the group trial of theIWW members in Chicago in 1918. Material on Samuel Gompers, Bill Haywood, EmmaGoldman, and others appear throughout this period. ACLU publications, pressclippings, and unpublished reports offer illuminating details on deportations,alien issues, and the rise of what the ACLU called the"superpatriotic" organizations: the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of Liberty,and others.


Gift of the Materialsto the New York Public Library


On January 5, 1920, Albert DeSilver, Director of theNational Civil Liberties Bureau, wrote to Edwin H. Anderson, Librarian of theNew York Public Library, indicating that the National Civil Liberties Bureauwas winding up its affairs and proposing to send the records of the Bureau tothe library. DeSilver indicated that the records consisted of approximately 70volumes, one and one-half inches thick, of bound correspondence "relatingto civil liberties and conscientious objection during the war" and"newspaper clippings covering the same period throughout the UnitedStates." DeSilver modestly stated, "In our judgment this is avaluable collection for reference use as historical documents." The nextday Anderson replied positively to the proposal. Thus began a thirty-yearrelationship between the New York Public Library and what soon became the ACLU.


When the first of these volumes was finally delivered to the libraryin December 1921, Roger Baldwin's cover letter noted: "I feel as if weought to apologize for the condition of these volumes. It is due to the factthat they have been roughly handled, having been sent to Washington for aSenate Committee investigation and to the Lusk Committee in New York state fortheir use in compiling their report." Both Baldwin and DeSilver enunciatedthe principle that these records be open to all "interested persons whomade inquiries of us." This desire to make known the work of the ACLUalmost immediately after the time during which the records were created hasbeen a hallmark of the ACLU's approach to its records. Many materials thatwould be withheld today for a period of time due to concerns about privacy,privilege, and confidentiality were available for all to see upon their annualtransfer to the library. The records provide a detailed picture of theday-to-day life of this institution as it grew in the Baldwin years. Its localcorrespondents and the general public sent correspondence, reports, andhundreds of clippings from small papers across America relating to the issuesthat formed the ACLU' s agenda.


Careof the Records at the New York Public library


Thefirst volumes sent to the NYPL were canvas-backed, postbound original documentsor clippings pasted on paper. Volumes were numbered starting with 1 for eachseries for each year or set of years. Over the years the NYPL employed conservationmeasures on many of these volumes that involved removing the originals from thepostbindings, and cutting and pasting them into scrapbooks. This process oftenincreased the number of volumes and split materials described as a singlevolume between two or more volumes. In some cases, volumes were renumbered as apart of the process, so one can see multiple numbering schemes for the filmedvolumes.


At somepoint the ACLU began to forward loose materials arranged in series to the NYPL,which became responsible for the pasting and binding process. In order toimprove access to the volumes, the NYPL eventually renumbered the entire run ofvolumes starting with 1. In assigning the numbers, or upon undergoingconservation work, some volumes were numbered with a combination of volume andletter designations (e.g., 595A and 595B). There is also an enormous gap in thenumbering system from 1099 to 2000 which appears to have been a mistake made bythe person applying the numbers to the volumes. There are also some missingnumbers, but there is no internal evidence that would indicate that thosevolumes are missing. Again, it is likely that those numbers were not assignedby mistake.


Preparationof the Microfilm


In 1952the NYPL decided that it could no longer house a vast and growing collectionlike that of the ACLU and made plans to film the materials on hand and thendestroy them. For the future, the NYPL planned to film on an annual basis, astrategy that was never implemented. The ACLU apparently hoped to preserve theoriginals and in 1953 signed an agreement with Princeton to bring the recordsto the University's spacious new Firestone Library. By the 1970s, despiteseveral additions to the main library, Princeton too had run out of space. Uponcompletion of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library on the Princeton campus in1976, the records were transferred to this still spacious facility.


Whenthe NYPL prepared its microfilm between 1953 and 1957, it had already boundmaterial into volumes through most of 1946, but the rest of the materialthrough 1950 still remained loose in boxes. In addition, three boxes ofpre-1950 indexed material at Princeton (not filmed by the NYPL) were filmed asAppendixes 1-3 of this microfilm edition.


Self-IndexingNature of the Volumes


In many ways the volumesthemselves are self-indexing in that a fairly elaborate, although usuallyunpaginated, index outline is found at the front of each volume. The researchershould remember that the index, while originally prepared for a single volume,may now relate to material spread over two or more volumes created as a resultof rehousing for conservation. The index outline for each volume is carriedover throughout its contents with each new section of the outline listed onwhat is a blue paper section header pasted in before the records. While thisblue paper marker helps to locate the sections of the outline in the boundvolumes, finding it is somewhat more difficult due to the black and whitenature of the film.


Arrangementof the Material in the Volumes


Throughoutthe records there is a clear division between correspondence and newspaperclippings. For the most part, materials are then arranged chronologically byyear (or set of years in the early volumes) for each series. For each topicwithin a series (roughly equivalent to a file folder), there is also achronological arrangement. There are, of course, occasional overlaps ofmaterial at the beginning and end of each year and breakdowns in the order asmaterials were pasted into volumes.


At thebeginning of the run, there are relatively few series. Except for separate runsfor organizational matters and conscientious objectors, most early materialsfall under general correspondence/clippings or state casecorrespondence/clippings. Over time, with the increasing complexity of theorganization, other series dealing with academic freedom, censorship, federalagencies and legislation, outside organizations, and labor injunctions became apart of the organization of these records. There are also special series forthe records of the Pennsylvania Civil Liberties Committee and the PhiladelphiaBranch (1930-1933), the New York City Civil Liberties Committee (1936-1950),and the personal papers of Walter Nelles (1920-1926).


Whilethere is an apparent organization to these bound volumes, the task for theresearcher is to determine which series (and there are often several, all ofwhich may contain records) are appropriate for the research task. A combinationof the reel and series lists, the card index, and the volume outlines found onthe film should enable the researcher to find the appropriate records with amodest degree of effort.


Omissionsfrom the Microfilmed Records


Themicrofilm does not include all ACLU records prior to 1950. The major seriesomitted, but available on other microfilm, are board minutes, mailings to theboard, policy guides, legal briefs, press releases, and publications. Portionsof these series appear under appropriate topics (for instance, board actionsand publications are often found as related to a particular subject, but thereare no complete runs of minutes or publications). Other materials relating tothe Elizabeth Gurley Flynn ouster in 1940 and to labor and radio were notfilmed since they came directly from the ACLU to Princeton at a later time.




Historyof the Index


In 1978the Princeton University Library received a Higher Education Act Title II-Cgrant to index the bound volumes of ACLU material for the thirty-year periodfrom 1917 to 1946. The bound nature of these archival materials had always beenproblematic in terms of use and copying: the paper copies were turning to dust,and researchers complained bitterly over the years about the inability to findrelevant materials in these volumes.


Over atwo-year period an index team created hundreds of subject categories, some usedonly for a single year and others stretching over the entire thirty-year timespan. In addition, major or frequent correspondents or authors were indexedunder the category "People." By the end of the grant, 57,500 cards(40 file drawers) had been filed to index the 1,886 volumes. Four additionalcartons of loose materials from the pre-1947 period were also indexed asAppendixes 1-4. Appendixes 1-3 were newly filmed for this microform collection(Reels 280-288). Appendix 4 had previously been filmed as Volumes 1-7 of the1946 correspondence (Reel 238).


TheNature of the Index


Theindex is first organized chronologically by year or set of years, which generallyfollows the manner in which the volumes themselves are organized. For eachchronological division, the cards are then arranged under specific subjects.Use the list of subjects (pp. 19-43) and the list of names (pp. 45-48), whichmay be found under the subject heading "People," to identify relevantindex terms and the years they appear.


Thecards always provide volume numbers and pages for volumes that are numbered.The reel numbers (often indicated on the card as r:) for Reels 1-69 (Volumes1-380) are generally listed on the cards. Thereafter the cards usually read"No Film." This only indicates that Princeton did not own a copy ofthe film when the index was prepared. Use the reel contents list (pp. 59-111)to determine the appropriate reel for the volume you want to use.


Limitationsof the Index


Theindex requires the researcher to determine the relevant subject which is notalways easy. Any number of relatively broad topics might well, and often do,encompass the proposed area of research. In addition, the index does notprovide the view of the organization of the records that the reel and serieslists provide.


Mostlegal cases are listed under a subject; therefore, there is no centralizedaccess to the cases by name, except for certain periods (for example,conscientious objector cases during World War I), or for certain well-knowncases (for instance, Scopes). Remember that legal cases are often filed underthe clippings and correspondence for an individual state from which itinitiated. Again, the reel contents and series lists should not be overlookedas other means to find relevant material.


Thereare also limits to name access to correspondence. The indexing team includedmore names in the early years and fewer as the project progressed. In addition,not all names or every appearance of that name in a given year is indexed,especially for individuals active in ACLU affairs. Researchers should certainlylook at reel contents and series lists to find other avenues of access.


Finally, the index does not include some of the loose materialfor 1946 (Volumes 8-18 found on Reels 238-239 for which the originals seem tohave been lost), or any of the materials for 1947 to 1950 (Volumes 19-189,Reels 240-274). The originals of these loose materials, except for theclippings, were recently reorganized as part of an ACLU processing project forthe post-1946 unbound ACLU records. Thus, to gain access to these materials,one must use the reel contents and series lists.




Thefirst seven series contain newspaper clippings, and their descriptions arearranged alphabetically by title of the series. The fourteen other series arecorrespondence series that are also arranged alphabetically by title. Theresearcher should understand that even though these materials are organizedinto discrete series descriptions, the records themselves are intermingledthroughout the microfilm. In other words, this is a conceptualization of theseries found in these volumes if one were to bring like matter together; thematerial itself has not been rearranged.




TheACLU, through a clipping service and from its local committees and agents,received hundreds of clippings annually which it organized. The sheer varietyof journals included in these series is staggering. Much material is taken fromleft-wing press and little-known local and regional papers. A small samplevolume included over thirty-six different papers ranging from the Seattle Industrial Worker and theRiverside, California Presson the West Coast to the Providence Journal and the Baltimore Post on the East Coast, from the Albion, Michigan Recorder and Minnesota Labor Review in theMidwest to the EI Paso Heraldand Denver Rocky Mountain Newsin the mountain west


Series 1 - Academic Freedom-Clippings (1917-1950)


Thisseries provides access to information on academic freedom cases from roughly1925 when the Academic Freedom Committee came into existence until 1950. Thereis a small amount of general material prior to 1925. Clippings are generallyarranged by state, but there are a few subject files as well. Of special noteare the many volumes of clippings on the Scopes trial found under Tennessee.Subjects found under this series are Bible reading laws, anti-evolution laws,loyalty oaths, conscientious objectors, flag burning, bans on lectures, bans onunions, flag salute cases, discrimination, compulsory military training,textbook censorship, Communists in the schools, dismissals of teachers andstudents, and individual cases of various college and university professors.


Series 2 - Censorship-Clippings(1928-1929, 1933-1946, 1949-1950)


Most ofthis series is arranged by state, although there are a number of subjects aswell, including censorship of books, comics, magazines, motion pictures,newsstands, the mails, the press, radio, theater, and war correspondents. Seealso States Clippings (Series 7) for clippings on censorship, especially priorto 1933.


Series 3 - Chronological-Clippings (1947-1948)


This small series includes clippings from1947 and 1948 arranged chronologically by month. It contains materials normallyfound in the other clippings series.


Series 4 - Federal Departments - Clippings (1920-1923, 1925-1946, 1949-1950)


Thisclippings series mirrors the types of materials found in the FederalDepartments Correspondence (Series 11). In general, it covers due processmatters arising from agencies of the federal government. One should also lookat General Clippings (Series 5) and Censorship Clippings (Series 2) for other clippingsinvolving federal departments of government. The clippings are generallyarranged alphabetically by the appropriate government department.


Series 5 General - Clippings(1912, 1917-1946, 1949-1950)


Thisseries covers a variety of subjects in whichthe ACLU had a general interest but which were not directly associatedwith individual cases in the states. The chief focus of this series is on the labor movement (including strikes,injunctions, industrial espionage, labor violence, and IWW cases, among themthe San Diego free speech case from 1912), conscientious objection, civilrights (including Japanese-American internment, lynchings, Negroes, and racialdiscrimination), patriotic organizations, press coverage of civil libertiesissues, religious freedom, and government intrusions on civil liberties(including aliens, raids, deportations, and wiretapping). A small number ofclippings relating to the organization of the ACLU are also included.


Series 6 Legislation - Clippings (1917-1923, 1926-1946, 1949-1950)


Thisseries relates principally to federal legislation, although there are severalvolumes that include state and local legislation as well, especially relatingto the espionage acts enacted in the period during and after World War 1. Theprincipal legislative issues are labor unions, censorship, immigration andnaturalization, anti-lynching bills, espionage and sedition, and congressionalinvestigative committees. In general, the terms used by the ACLU to describethe legislative matters have been retained. Thus, the entire list should besurveyed for matters relating to the same subject.


Series 7 States - Clippings (1919-1946,1949-1950)


TheACLU arranged most of its activities by state, and this series provides accessto clippings relating to many of the issues with which it dealt over the years. One should also consultclippings for academic freedom, censorship, and general material which alsocontain clippings related to individual states. For 1947 and 1948 only,clippings were arranged in chronological order. The states clippings filesrelated to such topics as lynchings, strikes, criminal syndicalism, unions,blacklisting, police brutality, free speech and assembly, miscegenation,sterilization, discrimination, the Ku Klux Klan, prosecutions, arrests, policeraids, interferences with meetings, official violence, deportations,fingerprinting, mob violence, and handbill ordinances. There are many clippingsrelating to the celebrated Mooney-Billings bomb attack case in California, the1926 Passaic Strike in New Jersey, Communist demonstrations in New York, andthe Centralia murder case in Washington in 1920. Each volume's index outlineprovides much more detail about topicscovered. The term "states" includes many United Statesterritories or other nearby countries in which the United States had aninterest (for instance, Cuba and Nicaragua).




The correspondence of the ACLU is wideranging and reflects the growth in the various matters in which the ACLU tookan interest over time. While most series focus on the work of the organization,there are several series dealing with events or organizations outside the scopeof the ACLU. Of particular importance is the States Correspondence (Series 21),which contains much on the ACLU's involvement with cases throughout the nation.


Series 8 - Academic Freedom - Correspondence (1917-1919, 1921, 1924-1926, 1928-1934, 1936-1941, 1943-1950)


Thisseries principally represents the work of the Academic Freedom Committee andthe staff that worked under its direction. One should also see records relatingto the Committee in Organizational Matters (Series 18). For the most part,records are arranged by state, although there are some other subjects. Frequentissues include evolution, yellow dog contracts for teachers, Bible reading inschools, compulsory military training in schools, loyalty oaths, CommunistParty membership, flag-saluting cases, textbook bans, and release time inschools.


Series 9 Censorship - Correspondence (1917- 1921, 1930- 1950)


Thisseries contains correspondence relating to free speech issues during World WarI and matters handled by the Committee on Freedom from Censorship during the1930s and 1940s. Two other committees functioned in these areas at a latertime: the Committee on Freedom of Communications (which largely dealt withmonopoly issues) and the Committee on Radio. Again, Organizational Matters(Series 18) should be consulted for more information about the work of thesecommittees. The records are mostly organized around individual types ofcensorship (book, comics, customs, speech, magazine, motion picture, postoffice, press, radio, and theater). For a few years there are some casesarranged by state.


Series 10 - Conscientious Objectors - Correspondence (1917-1921, 1927, 1940-1942,1944-1950)


Recordsfound in this series are concentrated around the time of the two world warswhen conscientious objection was a paramount issue. For the first war, recordsare generally organized around the camps and forts to which COs were assigned,although there are several sets of cases organized by states or alphabeticallyby name. For the second war, the bulk of the material is organizedalphabetically by name of the conscientious objector. Much of the work of theACLU during the Second World War was conducted by the National Committee onConscientious Objectors, whose records were placed at Swarthmore Collegefollowing the war. The records include telegrams, letters, and memoranda tofederal officials. There is much personal information on COs, depositions theygave, and reports on camp conditions based upon site visits by the NationalCivil Liberties Bureau during World War 1.


Series 11 - Federal Departments - Correspondence (1924- 1950)


This series documents the ACLU's considerable correspondencewith the three branches of the federal government over the years, especially inthe area of due process. Matters addressed with some frequency include rightsof aliens, loyalty investigations, civil service questions, congressionalinvestigations, military investigations, labor disputes, fair employmentpractices, Japanese-American internment, Indian affairs, and civil rights. Ingeneral, the material is organized by department, although there are manysubject files in this series. Since the ACLU did not consistently organize thismaterial, the researcher is urged to review the entire list of subjects.


Series 12 - Federal Legislation - Correspondence (1919-1921, 1926-1950)


In its early years the ACLU shied away from lobbying forspecific legislation, other than in the areas of amnesty for conscientiousobjectors and repeal of the wartime espionage and sedition acts. With thecoming of the New Deal, the ACLU was much more involved on the legislativefront, although the organization still did not have a Washington office at theend of Baldwin's tenure in 1950. The ACLU described legislation in a variety ofways: by author, by subject, by bill number, and by the general name of thebill. Researchers are advised to read the list carefully since there is nogrouping of records; this is simply an alphabetical listing. Frequent topicsinclude wiretapping, immigration and naturalization, labor, conscientiousobjection, civil rights, censorship, radio, and the espionage act.


Series 13 General - Correspondence (1917-1924, 1926-1929, 1931-1950)


Thisseries includes the correspondence of the ACLU on a variety of matters that arenot found elsewhere in the collection. Major topics addressed include aliens,amnesty, attacks on the ACLU, deportations, Indians, IWW cases, internationalcivil liberties, organized labor, minority political party rights, Negroes andcivil rights, patriotic organizations and their attacks on the ACLU, propagandafor and against civil liberties, race relations and discrimination, radio,religious freedom, sedition, and the United Nations.


Series 14 Injunctions - Correspondence (1931-1935, 1937-1939)


Thissmall series focuses on attempts by the ACLU to obtain uniform state lawsrelating to the issuance of injunctions in the face of union-organizingefforts. Most of the records are organized by state, although there are a fewspecial subjects.


Series 15 - Labor and Liberal Organizations - Correspondence (1921, 1931-1950)


Recordsin this series indicate the ACLU's vast correspondence with a variety ofcooperating organizations around the nation and the world. Baldwin believedthat there was strength in numbers and his wide-ranging correspondencereflected a desire to work with other organizations on the variety of issuesaddressed by the ACLU The series is arranged alphabetically by name of theoutside organization. These organizations focused on such subjects asanti-Fascism, protection of aliens, civil rights, conscientious objection,pacifism, Communism, socialism, and religion.


Series 16 - Nelles Papers, Walter - Correspondence (1920-1926)


Thisseries covers the personal papers of Walter Nelles, an attorney who handledmany of the ACLU's cases during its first decade. The four bound volumesinclude a few legal records (U. S. v.Steene [1920], Connecticutv. Coleman [1921], and aRoger Baldwin case [1925-1926]), but they principally consist of writings onthe Constitution, the Knights of Labor, labor injunctions and the Shermanantitrust act, and a publication called the Law and Freedom Bulletin,which Nelles edited from 1920 to 1924. The reason that these records are foundamong the ACLU archives is unclear, except for Nelless relationship to theorganization.


Series17 New York Committee Correspondence (1936-1950)


Beginningin 1936 the ACLU formed a quasi-independent New York City Committee to handlelocal matters. Eventually this organization became one of the most importantlocal affiliates in the country, namely, the New York Civil Liberties Union,but not before Baldwins retirement in 1950. These records document theinternal activities of this Committee as well as its many special interests,including limits on free speech and assembly, labor strikes, Communistactivities, civil rights, police brutality, wiretapping, and Works ProgressAdministration policies.


Series18 Organizational Matters Correspondence (1917-1950)


Thisseries documents the activities of the ACLU board of directors, the ExecutiveCommittee, the National Committee, and various subject committees created overthe years. There is also material on local affiliates, although one shouldcertainly look under States Correspondence (Series 21) as well. The use of theACLUs bail fund during the 1920s and 1930s is of special importance in termsof its relationship to unions and Communists. The series also includes someruns of ACLU publications and minutes. The series is arranged alphabetically bysubject.


Series19 Pennsylvania Civil Liberties Committee and Philadelphia Branch Correspondence(1930-1933)


Theseare the records of the Pennsylvania State Committee, which had an office inHarrisburg during the legislative season, and the Philadelphia Branch. For mostof the period covered, Allan G. Harper, who subsequently headed the IndianRights Association in Philadelphia, was the Executive Secretary for bothorganizations. John V. Stranger, who followed Harper as Executive Secretary,reported that the organization was insolvent and that no one wanted to maintainthe six files of material. In an August l1, 1934, letter Baldwin urgedStranger to send the material to the New York Public Library, which explainswhy the early Pennsylvania records wound up in New York. These records focus onseveral local issues including injunctions, censorship, deportations, policebrutality, and strikes. Generally, one should assume volumes include materialfrom all four years even when they are marked otherwise.


Series20 State Legislation Correspondence (1928-1929, 1935-1941, 1943-1947,1949-1950)


TheState Legislation series includes correspondence dealing with state legislativeactivities. In general, it is arranged by state, although there is a largeamount of general material and some subject files. In addition, one shouldreview the correspondence found in the injunctions and States Correspondence(Series 21), which also deal with state legislative activities.


Series21 States Correspondence (1917-1950)


This isprobably the most important series in the microfilm set. The national officemaintained an active correspondence with state and local officials, friendlycorrespondents, clients, and other individuals on a variety of matters,principally relating to legal cases. These records are arranged by state andoften include records for the early activities of the growing number of stateaffiliates. The record of ACLUs vigorous involvement in many of its mostsignificant legal cases is found in this series. For instance, theMassachusetts records include materials relating to the ACLUs role in theSacco-Vanzetti defense. Colorado records cover the 1928 coal strike. Alabamarecords in the 1930s provide much information about the Scottsboro cases.ACLUs campaign against Boss Hague in the 1930s is found in the records of NewJersey during that time period. Again, one should utilize the index and theinternal volume descriptions to find appropriate materials for the researchquestion.`