The people of Princeton were on edge one summer in 1934. Six miles away on the banks of the Delaware & Raritan Canal in Griggstown, 200 boys ranging in age between 8 and 16 from New York, Buffalo, and Philadelphia were camping in tents that bore swastika emblems, wearing uniforms apparently modeled on the “Brown Shirts,” singing and speaking in German, and conducting daily military-style drills under the supervision of Hugo Haas, a 23-year-old German immigrant they referred to as “der Führer” (the Leader). The camp opened on a day that turned out to be significant for the American Nazi movement, August 6, 1934, the same date as mass rallies in New York’s Madison Square Garden and other cities nationwide, representing a notable escalation of Nazi activity in the United States. A group then named the Friends of the New Germany sponsored Camp Wille und Macht (which translates to “Will and Power” and was also the name of a Nazi youth magazine in Germany) as a pilot program to test out the idea of a Jungenschaft (the German Youth Movement) summer camp for American children of German descent. It quickly drew both local and national censure, but also raised important questions about American civil liberties.
In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, sophomores organize a battle against freshmen for canes for the first time, the ACLU urges Princetonians to support the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and more.
October 28, 1983—Princeton’s Director of the Center for Visitor and Conference Services, Bill O’Brien, receives a call from his section chief in the Army Reserves letting him know he will be on active duty soon. He will spend three weeks in Grenada.
By Zachary Bampton ’20
Previously on this blog we covered the educational and political aspirations of comic books in American popular culture. Keen interest in comics as teaching tools–or as propaganda–reflected a public awareness of the power of the medium. However, Americans did not always receive comics well. In the 1950s, creative expression came into the crosshairs of public officials wishing to tamp down on juvenile delinquency. Library book banning and film censorship occurred throughout the country. With regard to comics, many felt concerned by the disturbing and deviant subject matter, particularly in “horror” or “crime” comics. With materials selected from the American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), we will chronicle the move towards self-censorship by the Comics Magazine Association of America (CMAA) and the creation of the Comics Code Authority (CCA).
Into the 1950s, community and national organizations voiced concerns over subversive content found in comic books. In the words of Reverend Thomas J. Fitzgerald of Chicago, depictions of “crime, disrespect for law, rape, infidelity, perversion, etc.” troubled adults who thought of the impact on children (American Civil Liberties Union Records (MC001), Box 773, Folder 25). While comics across the board received criticism, a certain genre stood out from the rest, aptly referred to as “crime comics” or horror comics.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a tropical storm batters the campus, a mountain is named after a professor, and more.
September 4, 2001—Anthony Romero ’87 becomes the American Civil Liberties Union’s first Latino and first openly gay executive director.
This Sunday marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the mass expulsion of Japanese Americans from the west coast of the United States. Specifically, the order allowed the Secretary of War to designate certain regions as “military areas” from which anyone could be expelled at the discretion of the Secretary or his commanders. The order, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt about ten weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was defended by the federal government as a wartime protection measure.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Arthur Garfield Hays echoed the opinion of others in the organization when he initially wrote to a peer about his tendency to approve the actions of the government during crises; however, he soon after came to the conclusion that “we are safer in the long run if the government recognizes constitutional limitations, even in time of war.” Despite similar debates between board members, the ACLU quickly responded to the executive order by issuing several statements to Roosevelt and to John L. DeWitt, the commanding general of the Western Defense Command. The ACLU’s statements condemned Executive Order 9066 as discriminatory, pointing not only to the blatant prejudice against Japanese Americans, but also to the legal inequality that the order bolstered. In particular, the ACLU referred to the fact that the House Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration (also known as the Tolan Committee), which conducted hearings in February and March 1942, recommended that German and Italian “alien residents” be afforded the chance to attest their loyalty to the United States before civilian boards– a recommendation that the committee did not extend to Japanese Americans.
In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, a riot paralyzes the campus, a senior performs for the U.S. president, and more.
January 18, 1893—The faculty approve a resolution ending supervision of exams, provided that students sign a pledge stating that they have “neither given nor received aid” during the test.
The film Loving, based on the Loving v. Virginia case, is now in expanded release in U.S. theaters.
When Mildred and Richard Loving were married in June 1958, twenty-four states still had anti-miscegenation laws. For this reason, Mildred, a black woman who was also of Rappahannock and Cherokee Indian descent, and Richard, a white man, were married in Washington, D.C. instead of their native Virginia, where both of their families had resided for generations. After they married, the Lovings settled in Central Point, Virginia. They were unaware that they would soon find themselves involved in one of the most significant legal battles of the civil rights movement.
On July 11, 1958, after receiving an anonymous tip, local authorities issued warrants charging the Lovings with attempting to evade Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Lovings were indicted by a grand jury in Caroline County, Virginia and pled guilty in January 1959. They were convicted under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which made it illegal for interracial couples to marry out of state with the intention of returning, and sentenced under Section 20-59, which declared interracial marriage a felony offense and punishable by between one to five years in prison. Initially, both Mildred and Richard were sentenced to one year in prison, but the sentences were suspended on the condition that they leave Virginia and not return together for twenty-five years.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.