Roger Nash Baldwin: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Roger Nash Baldwin (January 21, 1884 – August 26, 1981) was one of the founders of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He served as executive director of the ACLU until 1950.

Many of the ACLU's original landmark cases took place under his direction, including the Scopes Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial, and its challenge to the ban on James Joyce's Ulysses.[1] Baldwin was a well known pacifist and author.



Roger Nash Baldwin was born in Wellesley, Massachusetts to Frank Fenno Baldwin and Lucy Cushing Nash. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Harvard University; afterwards, he moved to St. Louis on the advice of Louis D. Brandeis. There he taught sociology at Washington University, worked as a social worker and became chief probation officer of the St. Louis Juvenile Court. He also co-wrote Juvenile Courts and Probation with Bernard Flexner at this time; this book became very influential in its era, and was, in part, the foundation of Baldwin's national reputation.

Baldwin was a lifelong pacifist; he was a member of the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM), which opposed American involvement in World War I, and spent a year in jail as a conscientious objector rather than submit to the draft. After the passage of the Selective Service Act of 1917, Baldwin called for the AUAM to create a legal division to protect the rights of conscientious objectors. On July 1, 1917, the AUAM responded by creating the Civil Liberties Bureau (CLB), headed by Baldwin. The CLB separated from the AUAM on October 1, 1917, renaming itself the National Civil Liberties Bureau, with Baldwin as director. In 1920, NCLB was renamed the American Civil Liberties Union with Baldwin continuing as the ACLU's first executive director.[2]

As director, Baldwin was integral to the shape of the association's early character; it was under Baldwin's leadership that the ACLU undertook some of its most famous cases, including the Scopes Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial, and its challenge to the ban on James Joyce's Ulysses. Baldwin retired from the ACLU leadership in 1950. He remained active in politics for the rest of his life; for example, he co-founded the International League for the Rights of Man, which is now known as the International League for Human Rights.

In St. Louis, Baldwin had been greatly influenced by the radical social movement of the anarchist Emma Goldman. He joined the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1927, he had visited the Soviet Union and wrote a book, Liberty Under the Soviets. He later denounced communism in his book, A New Slavery, which condemned "the inhuman communist police state tyranny".[3] In the 1940s, Baldwin led the campaign to purge the ACLU of Communist Party members.[3]

In 1947, General Douglas MacArthur invited him to Japan to foster the growth of civil liberties in that country. In Japan, he founded the Japan Civil Liberties Union, and the Japanese government awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun. In 1948, Germany and Austria invited him for similar purposes.

President Jimmy Carter awarded Baldwin the Medal of Freedom on 16 January 1981.

Baldwin died of heart failure on August 26, 1981 at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey.[4]


  • Wobblies by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer, 1979, narrated by Roger Baldwin

Further reading

  • The New York Times, Thursday, 31 October 1918. Pacifist Professor Gets Year In Prison; Roger N. Baldwin Refused To Submit To Examination Under Draft Law. Nearing With Him In Court Shakes Baldwin's Hand After Sentence. Professor Asserts He Loves American Ideals. Roger N. Baldwin, former Director of the National Civil Liberties Bureau and an official of the American Union Against Militarism, was sentenced yesterday to serve one year in the Federal penitentiary at Atlanta for violating the selective draft law through refusal to submit to physical examination.
  • Peggy Lamson, Roger Baldwin: Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976) ISBN 0-395-24761-6


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Roger Nash Baldwin (January 21, 1884 – August 26, 1981), civil libertarian, founding member of American Civil Liberties Union, and its first executive director.



  • So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we'll be called a democracy.
    • quote on American Civil Liberties Union's webpage
  • I have continued directing the unpopular fight for the rights of agitation, as director of the American Civil Liberties Union.... I am for socialism, disarmament and ultimately for abolishing the state itself as an instrument of violence and compulsion. I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control by those who produce wealth. Communism is, of course, the goal.
    • From the Harvard Class Book of 1935, entitled "Thirty Years Later", spotlighting Baldwin's class of 1905 on its thirtieth anniversary, as quoted in a 1997 Insight on the News article.

Article from Soviet Russia Today

"Freedom In the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R." (PDF document) (Soviet Russia Today, September 1934) [emphasis below in original]

  • I believe in non-violent methods of struggle as most effective in the long run for building up successful working class power. Where they cannot be followed or where they are not even permitted by the ruling class, obviously only violent tactics remain. I champion civil liberty as the best of the non-violent means of building the power on which workers rule must be based. If I aid the reactionaries to get free speech now and then, if I go outside the class struggle to fight against censorship, it is only because those liberties help to create a more hospitable atmosphere for working class liberties. The class struggle is the central conflict of the world; all others are incidental.
  • When that power of the working class is once achieved, as it has been only in the Soviet Union, I am for maintaining it by any means whatever. Dictatorship is the obvious means in a world of enemies at home and abroad. I dislike it in principle as dangerous to its own objects. But the Soviet Union has already created liberties far greater than exist elsewhere in the world. They are liberties that most closely affect the lives of the people — power in the trade unions, in peasant organizations, in the cultural life of nationalities, freedom of women in public and private life, and a tremendous development of education for adults and children.
  • I saw in the Soviet Union many opponents of the regime. I visited a dozen prisons — the political sections among them. I saw considerable of the work of the OGPU. I heard a good many stories of severity, even of brutality, and many of them from the victims. While I sympathized with personal distress I just could not bring myself to get excited over the suppression of opposition when I stacked it up against what I saw of fresh, vigorous expressions of free living by workers and peasants all over the land. And further, no champion of a socialist society could fail to see that some suppression was necessary to achieve it. It could not all be done by persuasion.
  • [I]f American champions of civil liberty could all think in terms of economic freedom as the goal of their labors, they too would accept "workers' democracy" as far superior to what the capitalist world offers to any but a small minority. Yes, and they would accept — regretfully, of course — the necessity of dictatorship while the job of reorganizing society on a socialist basis is being done.


  • I regard the principle of conscription of life as a flat contradiction of all our cherished ideals of individual freedom, democratic liberty and Christian teaching.... I cannot consistently, with self respect, do other than I have, namely, to deliberately violate an act which seems to me to be a denial of everything which ideally and in practice I hold sacred.
    • Statement at his draft trial.
  • Do steer away from making it look like a Socialist enterprise. Too many people have already gotten the idea that it is nine-tenths a Socialist movement... We want also to look like patriots in everything we do. We want to get a good lot of flags, talk a good deal about the Constitution and what our forefathers wanted to make of this country, and to show that we are really the folks that really stand for the spirit of our institutions.
    • Baldwin's advice in 1917 to Louis Lochner of the socialist People's Council in Minnesota
  • Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above; they are forced from pressures from below.
  • They have rights who dare defend them.

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