The History of the ACLU American Civil Liberties Union
The end of the First World War was greeted by relief by many Americans but at the same time many of them started to fear that Communism from Russia would play a major role in their life. This in turn resulted in civil liberties being put at risk as witnessed in the Palmer Raids of late 1919 and early 1920. People in the thousands were arrested without any warrant and with total disregard of their constitutional rights. The arrested were often treated with brutality and they were also tortured.
Small group of people started it all
These abuses of people’s civil rights led to a small bunch of Americans taking a stand and that in turn resulted in the birth of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). These founders that gave birth to the ACLU soon transformed into the leading defender of civil rights in the US. Today, the ACLU has more than one and a half million members and on its roles. The organization boasts three hundred attorneys who are aided by volunteers in their thousands. The ACLU also has offices spread across America and they are continually fighting against government abuse and the protection of individual freedoms.
1925 and the Scopes Trial
The earliest instance of the American Civil Liberties Union fighting for ordinary people could be seen in the year 1925 during the Scopes Trial. Tennessee had just passed a law that banned the teaching of evolution. To challenge this law, the ACLU hired John T. Scopes who was prosecuted. But, thanks to a partnership between Scopes and the ACLU and despite Scopes being found guilty, the trial shook the nation and persuaded people to value the freedom of academics.
Fighting for Japanese American rights
In 1942, the ACLU also fought to denounce the US government’s internment of thousands of Japanese Americans who were being sent to concentration camps. The ACLU was probably the only voice to be raised against this persecution of Americans of Japanese descent.
Fighting racial segregation
Next, in 1954, the ACLU joined hands with the NAACP to fight racial segregation in public schools. In the judgement in the Supreme Court in Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that an end should be put to the concept of separate but equal.
Protecting free speech
In 1969, the ACLU was again at the forefront when it won a huge Supreme Court decision that protected free speech. In the case, Tinker vs. Des Moines, public students who had donned black armbands to protest the Vietnam War, won a huge First Amendment victory.
Right to privacy
Four years later, in 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton upheld the constitutional rights to privacy. The ACLU continues to fight for women’s rights to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
Internet Free Speech
Much later, in 1997, in a Supreme Court case named ACLU vs. Reno, a judgement was delivered in which Internet Free Speech was given protection. The indecent speech law has been challenged many times since this judgement and each time the ACLU has fought those who want to shackle free speech.
The ACLU has time and again been accused of defending certain people and groups including the Ku Klux Klan and the Nation of Islam. In its defense, the ACLU says that it may not agree with these people and groups but is only interested in defending their right to free assembly and free expression.