What Is the American Civil Liberties Union History?

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a non-profit organization that works to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. The organization has a long and storied history, dating back to its founding in 1920.

The Founding of the ACLU

The ACLU was founded in 1920 by a group of activists, including Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver. The organization was created in response to what its founders saw as an assault on civil liberties during World War I. The group’s initial focus was on protecting freedom of speech and association, but it quickly expanded to include other areas such as freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection under the law.

The ACLU’s Early Years

In its early years, the ACLU faced significant challenges as it worked to establish itself as a leading advocate for civil liberties. The organization filed several landmark cases during this time, including Gitlow v. New York (1925), which established that First Amendment protections applied to state governments as well as the federal government.

The ACLU During World War II

During World War II, the ACLU faced perhaps its greatest challenge yet. The group worked tirelessly to protect the rights of Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps by the US government. The organization also fought against censorship of wartime news coverage and defended conscientious objectors who refused to participate in military service.

The Civil Rights Movement

In the 1950s and 60s, the ACLU played a pivotal role in advancing the cause of civil rights in America. The organization was involved in numerous landmark cases during this period, including Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which struck down segregation in public schools.

Recent Years

In recent years, the ACLU has continued to work to protect civil liberties in a variety of areas, including LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, and immigrant rights. The organization has also been involved in the fight against mass incarceration and police brutality.


The history of the ACLU is a testament to the importance of defending civil liberties in America. From its humble beginnings in 1920 to its current role as a leading advocate for individual rights and freedoms, the organization has played a vital role in shaping the legal landscape of the United States. Today, the ACLU remains committed to defending civil liberties for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.