ACLU Court Document Summons King’s Last Days

A recent reference inquiry brought to light a document within the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Records that provides a record of one of the events that took place in the days surrounding the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with Dean of the Chapel Ernest Gordon, at Princeton in 1960. Historical Photograph Collection, Individuals Series.

W.J. Michael Cody, an attorney in Memphis, who, along with his firm, represented King and other defendants in a case brought by the City of Memphis, inquired whether we had documents related to these events in the ACLU Records.

The court case at issue concerned the City of Memphis’ desire to prevent a march in support of striking sanitation workers—the city wished to ban the demonstration because an earlier sanitation workers’ march (held on March 28, 1968) had become disorderly and resulted in rioting and the use of aggressive law enforcement measures including mace and tear gas. King wished to lead another, peaceful march for the cause, but the City of Memphis obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent it from occurring (Cody, p. 700).

Cody, a former president of the West Tennessee Chapter of the ACLU, was contacted by ACLU General Counsel Mel Wulf, and asked whether his firm, Burch Porter & Johnson, would represent King in a case to lift the restraining order and allow the march to proceed legally. On the evening of April 3, in the midst of the defense’s preparations for the case, King gave his well-known “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to the sanitation workers and their families at the Mason Temple (Cody, p. 700).  According to the document below from the ACLU records, the hearing was held on the day of April 4, and the court decided that the march could proceed under a set of conditions that would help to ensure its orderliness.  That evening, King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel.

The three-page court document from the ACLU Records, filed April 5, 1968, indicates that the Counsel for the City changed its position after the tragic event and joined with the defendants in their efforts to allow the march to proceed with the provisions listed.

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 1), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 1), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 2), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 2), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 3), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Opinion and Temporary Injunction (page 3), ACLU Records, Subgroup 2, Box 656, Folder 2

Cody recounts the complex and compelling events of this period in Memphis in his article “King at the Mountain Top: The Representation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Memphis, April 3-4, 1968,” The University of Memphis Law Review, Vol. 41, pages 699-707.

 

Rodger Baldwin: From The Civil Liberties Bureau to the American Civil Liberties Union

by: Professor Samuel Walker
School of Criminal Justice
University of Nebraska at Omaha

 

This is the first part in a series that was introduced earlier.

Roger Baldwin was director of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) from its founding as an organization independent of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) in October 1917 until his resignation in September 1918. His resignation followed a U.S. Justice Department raid on the NCLB offices on August 30, 1918, but was primarily prompted by his plan to refuse to submit to the draft. Selective service had been extended to men up to the age of 40, and Baldwin at age 36 was eligible. He was subsequently convicted of violating the selective service act and sentenced to prison. Upon leaving prison in the summer of 1919 he began the work of reorganizing the NCLB into a permanent civil liberties defense organization. The ACLU was subsequently founded in January 1920. The documents in this section relate to these events. Particularly important is Baldwin’s statement to the judge upon being sentenced to prison, which was widely circulated and helped to establish Baldwin’s national reputation (Document # 3).

Reel 14/Vol. 108/p. 195L

With this September 6, 1918 letter, Roger Baldwin resigns as director of the National Civil Liberties Bureau. The letter refers to the U.S. Justice Department raid on the NCLB offices on August 30th and the possibility of the prosecution of NCLB leaders under the Espionage Act. The primary reason for his resignation, however, was the fact that he had bee served with a draft notice and planned to refuse to submit to military service. Selective Service had recently been extended to men up to the age of 40, and he was now eligible.

Reel14/Vol.108/p198R

Reel14/Vol.108/p199R

The September 30, 1918 Minutes of the NCLB Directing Committee discuss Baldwin’s situation with the draft and the organization’s response (Agenda Item # 4). The minutes also cover the NCLB’s eviction from its office at 70 Fifth Avenue, which was probably due to government or public pressure. The landlord, Mr. Plimpton, is a relative of George Plimpton who was a noted editor and author in the 1950s and 1960s.

Reel7/Vol69/p379-386

The Individual and the State(November 1918) is a reprint of Roger Baldwin’s statement to Judge Julius Mayer on October 30, 1918, upon being sentenced to prison for refusing to submit to the draft. Baldwin’s statement immediately attracted attention, was widely quoted and reprinted, and established Baldwin’s national reputation as a person of conscience. This version was reprinted and distributed by the NCLB. It was reprinted during World War II when the issue of conscientious objection to participation in war reappeared. This pamphlet also includes Judge Mayer’s response to Baldwin and pronouncement of the sentence.

Reel14/Vol.108/p.204

These Minutes of a special meeting of the NCLB Directing Committee on October 31, 1918, immediately after Baldwin’s sentencing, record the discussion of possibly publishing Baldwin’s speech to the court. The committee decided not to, and hoped that his friends would publish it privately. The NCLB changed its mind and published and distributed the speech.

Reel5/Vol.44/p.225-6

Reel5/Vol .44/p.230

The first letter, from the NCLB letter to its members, February 21, 1919, includes a letter from Roger Baldwin, who was then in prison for refusing to submit to the draft. In addition to discussing the pending peacetime sedition bill and amnesty for conscientious objectors in prison, he declares that he would not accept any personal pardon that would allow him to be released from prison early. The second letter, undated, is from Baldwin to Albert De Silver objecting to any efforts to obtain a pardon for him.

Reel 14/Vol. 108/pp. 368R

Reel 14/Vol. 108/pp. 369R

These letters from Albert De Silver to Baldwin on July 12, 1919 and July 13(not clear) discuss plans for a welcome home party following his release from prison, to be held at the apartment of Norman Thomas.

Reel14/Vol.108/p.370

The formal invitation to the welcome home party for Baldwin from Norman Thomas, July 17, 1919.

Reel14/Vol.108/p.373

The famous radical Elizabeth Gurley Flynn accepts invitation to the welcome home party for Baldwin, July 18, 1919. Baldwin and Flynn were close colleagues in these years. In 1940, however, they had a falling out when Baldwin engineered the adoption of an ACLU policy barring members of totalitarian organizations from serving in official ACLU positions, forcing her expulsion from the ACLU Board of Directors.

Reel 14/Vol. 108/pp. 366L

The caterer’s bill for the welcome home party for Roger Baldwin at Norman Thomas’s apartment.

 

 

NOTE: For documents on Roger Baldwin’s activities regarding the founding the ACLU in late 1919 and early 1920 see the documents under the topic “The Founding of the ACLU.

For more of the collection that has been digitized you may browse the Finding Aid.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Early History in Documents

Today, we begin a series of blog entries in a new category American Civil Liberties Union History covering the ALCU’s early history.  Written by Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus in the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the author of the only comprehensive history of the ACLU, each entry contains many digitized documents along with Walker’s commentary.  These documents are part of 20 reels of microfilm that we digitized recently with Walker’s generous support and can be accessed here.

A note on the citations to the ACLU Records:  The location of each document is indicated by the microfilm reel number, the original Volume number in the ACLU Records, and the page number(s) within each volume. Locating particular documents should be fairly easy, although it will often require moving back and forth between reels and volumes.

Documents on particular topics are often scattered among different microfilm reels and volume numbers. This is believed to be a result of the disorganization of the records that occurred when the U.S. Justice Department raided the offices of the National Civil Liberties Bureau on August 30, 1918.

Despite the disorganization of the documents, however, most are grouped together in a logical fashion. As a result, readers who access a document related to the founding of the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB), for example, will find related documents on that subject nearby, and these documents may be of interest to readers.

A disclaimer: the text is Professor Walker’s interpretation of ACLU history and some will not agree with it. This is the nature of historical scholarship, but we encourage you to comment and, where possible, cite other ACLU documents that you find online. 

Applying “More Product, Less Process” to very large collections: Mudd archivist presents at professional conference

MARAC
Recently project archivist Adriane Hanson participated in a panel at the recent spring conference of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) in Cape May, NJ. The topic of her talk was how she is handling the size of her current project, processing 2,500 linear feet of the records of the American Civil Liberties Union Records in a two-year project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
In a nutshell, this feat is accomplished by:
1. Stay on top of the schedule through careful project management, collecting metrics to have realistic data on how long each task requires, and frequently revisiting and adjusting the timeline of the project.
2. Be flexible about the workflow, examining the way you have always done things and adjusting as needed to better work with a massive collection.
3. Think of it as data management. Use tools to repurpose data from one step of the project to another, and to analyze and transform the data once the box inventories are complete.
4. Spend extra time writing descriptions about each part of the collection to provide the researcher with important keywords to search for and context to understand the significance of the section. But do not spend time on description that is not aiding in searching, such as lists of document types in the collection inventory. Time should be spent on value-added description.
The slides and text for her presentation are available here.
If you have any questions for her, you can reach her by email: ahanson@princeton.edu

Additional ACLU Collections Available

aclu-logo-23841307_std1

There are now 3 more American Civil Liberties Union finding aids available online and accessible to the public:

Series 2: Project Files
The Project Files series contains the records of twelve of the ACLU’s projects, which each addressed an area of civil liberties violations. Project records typically consist of case files, research files, project publicity correspondence. The best documented projects are the Children’s Rights Project Women’s Rights Project, to a lesser extent the Arts Censorship Project, Capital Punishment Project, Reproductive Freedom Project.
Series 3: Subject Files
The Subject Files series contains articles, reports, court documents, and other materials collected by the ACLU during the course of their work. The main subjects are drugs, homelessness, and Supreme Court nominations, largely of Robert Bork. Other significant subjects in the series include campaign finance, discrimination, environmental equity and racism, school pension plans, state constitutions, and welfare.
Series 4: Legal Case Files
The Legal Case Files series documents the ACLU’s involvement in litigation, ranging from files collected on cases for research purposes to records of cases they were significantly involved in. The records include documents filed with the court, correspondence, lawyer’s notes, depositions and expert testimony, transcripts of the trials, newspaper clippings, and research materials on the background of the case and legal precedent.
The Legal Case Files series contains records about over 1,500 cases, with the majority being files collected on non-ACLU cases for research on the broad range of civil liberties which the ACLU investigates. Common subjects include the separation of church and state, public education, racial and sexual discrimination, injustice in the legal system, illegal surveillance and search, and protecting the freedom of speech and expression, as well as politics and voting, information access and privacy, fair employment and health care practices, and immigration. Cases which are particularly well documented include Carlos Rivera v. John Rowland about the public defender system in Connecticut and three cases about public education: Brown v. Board of Education, Charlet v. Legislature of Louisiana, and Harper v. Hunt.

For more information about the ACLU collections check out our recent post:
http://blogs.princeton.edu/mudd/2012/03/american-civil-liberties-union-records-new-series-available.html

-Adriane Hanson

American Civil Liberties Union Records: First New Series Available

aclu-logo-23841307_std1
Researchers can start using some newly open American Civil Liberties Union Records ahead of schedule!

Series 1: Organizational Matters is now open for research by using the following finding aid. http://arks.princeton.edu/ark:/88435/x346d492c

This series is part of an ongoing two-year project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to process 2,500 linear feet of ACLU records, largely from 1970 to 2000. Each series will be made available as processing is completed, with the entire project scheduled to end on July 1, 2012. Look for Series 2: Project Files and Series 3: Subject Files to be made available in April.

Series 1: Organizational Matters documents the inner workings of the ACLU. These records take you behind the scenes as individuals at the national office, regional offices, and affiliates negotiate the ACLU’s official position on emerging civil liberties issues. Executive Director Ira Glasser’s papers shed light into the complicated management of one of the nation’s preeminent civil liberties organizations. Within the correspondence, meeting minutes, and position papers, you can see the ACLU shape strategies to try cases, combat restrictive legislation, and mobilize public opinion to support the ACLU’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. At 472 linear feet, this series holds a wealth of potential for anyone looking at a late 20th century civil liberties issue or the U.S. policy-making process.

The public is welcome to visit the Mudd Library to conduct research within these materials. For more information on the ACLU collections, search our finding aids, and you can always get help by emailing us at mudd@princeton.edu.

–Adriane Hanson

New Public Policy Accessions: April 2011

As organizations grow and change through time, so do their archives.The Mudd Manuscript Library collects the records of the American Civil Liberties Union [ML.2011.011], the Association on American Indian Affairs [ML.2011.005], and Americans United for Separation of Church and State [ML.2011.003], among many other organizations. In the last few months, we’ve had the pleasure of receiving a new cache of materials from each of these organizations and adding them to existing collections. Although some materials from both the ACLU and AAIA may be restricted for some time to comply with legal and privacy concerns, the remainder will be valuable to researchers hoping to learn about the recent history of these important organizations.

In addition to these organization records, we have also received an accrual of papers from James A. Baker III, former Chief of Staff to President Reagan and Secretary of State to President George H.W. Bush [ML.2011.002]. These records, mostly from his post-Washington career, include research files created during the writing of his memoir, correspondence, events files, and a small number of financial files. They also include his “desk drawer” files, letters and notes from important figures in his career, including Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, Nancy Reagan, Henry Kissinger, and Karl Rove. Please consult the finding aid for this collection for access restrictions.

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