Roger Nash Baldwin

Roger Nash Baldwin

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 Monkey Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti murder trial, and its challenge to the ban on James Joyce's "Ulysses". [ See Crystal Eastman, an ACLU co-founder, as well as her brother Max Eastman (and, particularly, his criticism of James Joyce).] 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 1st, 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. []

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 Monkey 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" [] . In the 1940s, Baldwin led the campaign to purge the ACLU of Communist Party members [] .

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. [|NY Times Obituary August 27, 1981.]



*"The New York Times", Thursday, October 31, 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.

External links

* [ Roger Baldwin: Founder of the American Civil Liberties Union: A Portrait] by Peggy Lamson [ISBN 0395247616, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1976] p. 192
* [ "Freedom in the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.] (PDF) by Roger Nash Baldwin, in "Soviet Russia Today", 1934.
* [ Roger Nash Baldwin papers] in the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
* [ Roger Nash Baldwin, Unitarian] Bio of Roger Nash Baldwin by Robert C. Cottrell

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