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Roger Baldwin - Leader ACLU

Updated on January 28, 2015


Baldwin was born into a wealthy, socially progressive family in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on January 21, 1884, the oldest of six children. His father, Frank Feno Baldwin, was a leather merchant, and his mother, Lucy Cushing Nash, a feminist. Their relatives included Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower, a general in George Washington's army, and the founder of the Boston Young Men's Christian Union. Baldwin was introduced to ideas on social reform through the Unitarian church his family attended as well as from his family and their influential friends, who included the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, the celebrated attorney and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington.

Turned to Social Work

Baldwin graduated from Wellesley High School and entered Harvard University in nearby Boston, Massachusetts, in 1901. There, he became even more immersed in progressive matters of the day, volunteering at the Cambridge Social Union, which offered adult education to workers, and helping to organize the Harvard Entertainment Troupers, which provided musical performances for the poor. Following graduation from Harvard in 1905, Baldwin returned to Harvard, at the urging of attorney and family friend Louis Brandeis, to pursue a master's degree in social work. Brandeis then helped Baldwin secure a job running a settlement house in St. Louis, Missouri, and helping establish a sociology department at Washington University there.

Baldwin continued

He Believed in and Wanted to Promote Communism

ACLU Founder Roger Baldwin

"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 of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal."

Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Quoted in the National Federation for Decency Journal, September 1988. Page 9.


The nation's most formidable legal lobby, the ACLU, was founded in 1920 by the avowedly socialist Roger Baldwin, following his imprisonment for draft evasion, along with an assortment of Communist Party officials, radicals and anarchists. Baldwin, who directed the ACLU from 1920 to 1950, wrote for his college-reunion yearbook in 1935: "I have continued directing the unpopular fight for the rights of agitation, as director of the American Civil Liberties Union.... I seek the social ownership of property, the abolition of the propertied class and sole control of those who produce wealth. Communism is the goal." This sort of history has tended to annoy conservatives and, though a few have been able to overlook it to join, most have avoided membership in the ACLU Nonetheless, it now boasts a 50-state network including 300 local chapters.

Source: John Elvin, "Can a Political Odd Couple Reconcile Its Differences," Insight on the News 28 July 1997, Questia, 31 Dec. 2004 .

Roger N. Baldwin was a founding figure in the international human rights movement.


Baldwin showed much sympathy to the Soviet economic system in his statement in his Harvard classbook, and in the foreword he wrote to Letters from Russian Prisons (1924). He embraced the view that the Russia of his day was "a great laboratory of social experimentation of incalculable value to the development of the world."


What Baldwin Believed

In 1934 Baldwin authored a piece titled "Freedom in the USA and the USSR." He wrote: "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.


He was a nonconformist who was influenced by Henry David Thoreau's philosophy of individualism and self-reliance.

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National Civil Liberties Bureau

Roger Baldwin (1884 - 1981) began his career as a social worker and, over the course of a seven - decade career, became one of the foremost figures associated with the protection of civil rights. Baldwin co - founded the National Civil Liberties Bureau in 1917, which grew into the American Civil Liberties Union three years later

President JIMMY CARTER awarded Baldwin the Medal of Freedom,


He was not a support of traditional marriage.

While in St. Louis, Baldwin attended a speech by noted anarchist Emma Goldman, which affected him profoundly. "Here was a vision of the end of poverty and injustice by free association of those who worked, by the abolition of privilege, and by the organized power of the exploited," Baldwin recalled, as quoted by Cottrell. He developed a collegial association with Goldman and, based both on this affiliation and the onset of the war, began to supplement his reformist ideas with those based on more radical ideologies.

On August 8, 1919, soon after his release from prison, Baldwin married Madeline Doty, a well - known journalist, lawyer, prison reform activist and feminist, in a civil ceremony in New York. Following a honeymoon in the Adirondack Mountains, the pair, who vowed to observe an equal partnership unbound by the constraints of monogamy, settled into an apartment in New York's Greenwich Village.

Source: radical idelogies

Even in Tough Times He was a Social Worker

On October 9, 1918, Baldwin was arrested for violation of the Selective Service Act after refusing to appear before the draft board. His one - year sentence drew significant media attention. Due to a clerical error and time off for good behavior, Baldwin served ten months, during which time he established educational and entertainment programs for inmates and lobbied prison official for physical improvements to the facility.

Who Baldwin Associated With

Social reform through the Unitarian church his family attended as well as from his family and their influential friends, who included the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, the celebrated attorney and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington.


His aunt, Ruth Standish Baldwin, was a member of the Socialist party. His grandfather, William Henry Baldwin, whose anti-Christian views got him thrown out of the local YMCA, seemed to take a perverse delight in holding as many unorthodox views as possible on all matters related to morality and religion.


Emma Goldman (June 27, 1869 - May 14, 1940) was an anarchist known for her political activism, writing and speeches. She played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.

Born in Kovno in the Russian Empire (now Kaunas in Lithuania), Goldman emigrated to the US in 1885 and lived in New York City, where she joined the burgeoning anarchist movement.[1] Attracted to anarchism after the Haymarket affair, Goldman became a writer and a renowned lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women's rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands.[1] She and anarchist writer Alexander Berkman, her lover and lifelong friend, planned to assassinate Henry Clay Frick as an act of propaganda of the deed. Though Frick survived the attempt on his life, Berkman was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison. Goldman was imprisoned several times in the years that followed, for "inciting to riot" and illegally distributing information about birth control. In 1906, Goldman founded the anarchist journal Mother Earth.

In 1917, Goldman and Berkman were sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to "induce persons not to register" for the newly instated draft. After their release from prison, they were arrested-along with hundreds of others-and deported to Russia. Initially supportive of that country's Bolshevik revolution, Goldman quickly voiced her opposition to the Soviet use of violence and the repression of independent voices. In 1923, she wrote a book about her experiences, My Disillusionment in Russia. While living in England, Canada, and France, she wrote an autobiography called Living My Life. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, she traveled to Spain to support the anarchist revolution there. She died in Toronto on May 14, 1940.

Source: Wikipedia.


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