Happy Birthday, Roger Baldwin!
With all of the civil rights leaders who have passionately fought and died in the struggle to make sure that all Americans will have their rights protected, there is one who holds true to many ACLU members and supporters: Roger Baldwin.
Baldwin was a committed pacifist and was tapped to lead the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM), an organization opposed to American involvement in the First World War. With Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer ordering crackdowns and raids against protesters, Baldwin and the AUAM were confronted with the reality that political activism and civil liberties go hand in hand. Baldwin solicited the AUAM to form a legal division that could assist in the protection of civil liberties. At a time where dissent was met with fierce hostility, Baldwin and the Civil Liberties Bureau of the AUAM stood at the forefront of the defense of the First Amendment.
The Civil Liberties Bureau separated from AUAM, changed its name to the National Civil Liberties Bureau and, in 1920, again changed it to the current name, the American Civil Liberties Union. Under the direction of Roger Baldwin, the ACLU became a vital civil rights organization with interests in all civil rights issues. Several major landmark cases of his time were the ACLU’s involvement in Brown v. Board of Education, the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” Roe v. Wade, and representing James Joyce when his novel Ulysses was seized by U.S. customs officials for being obscenity "of the rottenest and vilest character."
On January 21, 2012, what would have been Baldwin’s 128th birthday, we will celebrate not only the birth of the ACLU’s founder, but also celebrate the life of an organization that will support your right to express whatever you believe. With many people under the impression that traditions don’t last in this country, the Bill of Rights is one tradition that has lasted and will last as long as there are people willing to fight for their rights.