Comprehensive Timeline Documents the History of the ACLU

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court (either as party, counsel, or amicus) more times than any other organization other than the U.S. Department of Justice.

The organization was formed on Jan. 20, 1920 in New York, and over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been attacked and supported by U.S. Presidents, Republicans, Democrats, business leaders, and Americans from every state.

To help fans, enemies, and people with no opinions of the ACLU understand the organization better, has published a comprehensive historic timeline of the ACLU illustrated with relevant photos and compiled from dozens of sources – each with their own biography.

The ACLU historic timeline begins with the 1915 National Civil Liberties Bureau that eventually spawned the ACLU and goes decade by decade into the ACLU’s history of civil liberties victories, controversies, setbacks, famous cases, and noteworthy headlines. The last entry is from 2010 when the ACLU supported the construction of the “Ground Zero Mosque” near the former World Trade Center site.

Some interesting facts from the timeline include:

1. The first ACLU state affiliate was founded in 1923 by Upton Sinclair, famed author of the 1906 best-seller The Jungle.

2. A special Congressional committee found on Jan. 1931 that the ACLU was “closely affiliated with the communist movement in the United States” while on Oct. 23, 1939 the House Committee on Un-American Activities found “there was no evidence that the American Civil Liberties Union was a Communist organization.”

3. In 1977 the ACLU successfully defended the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois. Thousands of ACLU members resigned in outrage, the organization went $500,000 into debt, and its Executive Director resigned one year later.

4. Often criticized as anti-religious, pro-criminal, and liberal, the ACLU has defended numerous churches, law enforcement organizations, and conservatives including Oliver North (1988) and Rush Limbaugh (2004).

The timeline was added to the free research materials available at, the nonpartisan website devoted to an in-depth exploration of the ACLU and the core question “Is the ACLU good for America?” The website explores ACLU actions and positions on 75 different topics from racial profiling and religious displays to same-sex marriage and the USA PATRIOT Act. It includes research and opinions from 531 sources – each with their own biography.