American Civil Liberties Union Records: Subgroup 2, Subject Files Series, 1947-1995

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This subseries consists of a variety of material gathered together by the ACLU as "miscellaneous" and of material placed under that heading by the processors of this project. It includes correspondence, memoranda, manuscripts, press releases, clippings, articles, legal documents, and bail bonds and is arranged chronologically. It includes materials on presidential elections from 1948 to 1964 and on election and campaign reform including statements and testimony by members of the ACLU and also questionnaires of candidate's views on civil liberties issues; information on municipal and state ordinances as well as a book of cancelled bail bonds from 1927-1931, showing the grassroots legal efforts of the ACLU to defend the rights of those associated with unpopular organizations; yearly compilations of "Descriptive Summaries of ACLU Case Actions Taken in Defense of Civil Liberties" (1946-1953); "Reference Books" compiled by the staff of the ACLU (1921-1946) containing memoranda of law and summary reports related to various civil liberties issues; information on films and television programs about civil liberties, such as "Inherit the Wind" and a television program on Sacco and Vanzetti; and manuscripts relating to civil liberties topics written by staffers of the ACLU and also by those outside the organization and submitted to the ACLU for approval or editorial comment. There are also a few files containing correspondence from the 1940s and 1950s which was at that time considered "confidential" and a "Survey of Communist-Oriented Organizations and Publications" compiled at the request of Roger Baldwin in 1946.
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The subject files consist of records gathered by the ACLU on various topics of interest pertaining to its mission. The records here are divided into four broad categories: Freedom of Belief, Expression, and Association; Due Process of Law; Equality Before the Law; and International Civil Liberties. Except for International Civil Liberties, each is then further subdivided alphabetically by topic. Generally, the subject files contain background material on a topic, as well as correspondence, memoranda, and other items documenting the ACLU's involvement with the issue.
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This subseries (11.76 linear feet) consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, and press releases regarding various bills and acts that interested the ACLU. The material is organized chronologically by year, under federal or state legislature headings, and is then arranged alphabetically with folder titles describing the issue, or bill in question.
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The Loyalty and Security subseries (24.36 linear feet) documents the ACLU's monitoring of and fight against due process abuses that resulted from perceived national security threats during the Cold War. It is arranged chronologically by year and then divided by the headings: miscellaneous, cases, Congressional investigating committees (excluding HUAC), Federal Loyalty Program, Fifth Amendment, House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), legislation, military security, private industry, and sedition and subversion. The files contain correspondence, memoranda, manuscripts, reports, legal documents, and printed materials.
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The Right to Privacy subseries (2.1 linear feet) contains correspondence, briefs, reports, printed material, and clippings. The headings reflect the issues these documents address: alcohol, data collection, drugs, medical rights, sexual privacy, and smoking. The ACLU fought for the right of doctors to hold a medical license regardless of political views, the relaxation of restrictions on marijuana, against government and private sector invasion of privacy through data collection, and against sanctions on private consensual sexual activity between adults. The miscellaneous heading contains many files on water fluoridation. For materials on reproductive freedom, consult the Women's Rights subseries.
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The ACLU censorship files (18.06 linear feet) contain materials which reflect the ACLU's involvement and interest in guaranteeing that freedom of speech and the press are not abridged. The ACLU fought hard against Post Office censorship, pressure groups, and government to protect the rights of artists, nudists, movie makers, homosexuals, and others to express their views, ideas, and images in books, magazines, and movies. These files are the documentation of that struggle.
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Correspondence, court documents, newspaper clippings, and reports related to elections and voting rights comprise the materials in this subseries (2.1 linear feet). Such issues as the required number of signatures for a new party to be recognized; the rights of minority parties (such as the Progressive Party, Socialist Party or Christian Nationalist Party) to partake in the election process; discussions of the laws concerning United States citizens and foreign elections; and election laws in general are detailed. One topic covered in great detail is reapportionment: there are many discussions of legislation related to the Supreme Court's ruling ( Baker v. Carr) requiring state legislatures to apportion their representation on the basis of population.
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The Mental Health subseries (4.2 linear feet) contains files related to the legal rights of the mentally ill, general mental health issues, and the treatment of patients in mental hospitals. The bulk of the collection is comprised of individual case materials in which patients corresponded with ACLU staff seeking help in obtaining their release from mental hospitals. The ACLU legal staff evaluated cases to determine if any patients suffered civil liberties violations.