Special Collections

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: Liberty in Times of Crisis 

By Miranda Rectenwald on June 1, 2020

Liberty in Times of Crisis A foundational concept of the ACLU since its founding in 1920 has been a particular attention to rights (especially  free speech, rights to assembly, rights to organize, personal privacy) during times of war and national crisis. Two notable moments where individual libe...

Cover of Showgirl Cartoons and Photographs

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: Comic Book Ordinance 

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 28, 2020

Comic Book Ordinance, 1956 Fearing that comic books encouraged juvenile delinquency, in 1956 the city of St. Louis passed Bill 553, making it illegal to sell publications showing “scandals, whoring, lechery, assignations, intrigues between men and women, and immoral conduct of persons.” St. Louis...

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ACLU-MO History Spotlight: Release Time for Religious Instruction  

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 21, 2020

Release Time for Religious Instruction, 1940–1948 In the 1940s, the St. Louis city public school let students (with parental permission) participate in “release time,” which allowed them to go to church for class, with attendance counting as part of their school day. This created a co...

Missouri's Two State Universities booklet and letter from St. Louis Civil Liberties, 1949

ACLU-MO History Spotlight: School Desegregation

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 20, 2020

Ending Segregated Education Starting in the 1940s, the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee began working with the local NAACP and Urban League chapters on civil rights efforts. This followed the pattern established by Roger Baldwin in founding the ACLU, ensuring that work on “inter-racial q...

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ACLU-MO and Racial Justice: 1940s

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 18, 2020

ACLU-MO in the 1940s In the years before World War II, the St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee was a small organization. In March 1940 St. Louis had 47 members, and an annual budget of just under $300 (roughly $5,000 in 2020 dollars).  There was no paid staff.  Board meetings were held in officer...

Whitehouse with protesters in front carring sign "Mr. President Fee the Scottsboro Boys!"

ACLU-MO Early Years: 1930s

By Miranda Rectenwald on May 13, 2020

The St. Louis Civil Liberties Committee began on May 7, 1920, with about a dozen volunteers, both men and women. For its first decades, the group and its actions remained focused on advocacy and education about civil rights. By 1932, the national ACLU noted that St. Louis was focusing “chie...

Tracking Down History

By Miranda Rectenwald on April 30, 2020

The story of the ACLU of Missouri is long and complex — and the process for researching this history is the work of many, many individuals. In January 2020, Emily Gross, a Washington University student interning with the ACLU-MO centennial project, spoke with lawyer and journalist Bill Frei...

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Open to All: The Fight to Desegregate St. Louis Restaurants

By Miranda Rectenwald on April 23, 2020

One of the documents preserved in the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri Records at the Washington University Libraries is this simple black and white mimeographed sheet produced by CORE (Committee of Racial Equality) volunteers working in St. Louis. The page lists “places to eat-fa...

Reflections on a Centennial

By Miranda Rectenwald on April 16, 2020

In 2017, the Washington University Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections and the ACLU of Missouri began preparation for the ACLU’s centennial in 2020. This work culminated in January 2020, with an event and exhibition at Olin Library. To continue the celebration online, this ...