Tracking Down History

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 Freivogel about the complexity of this history. Together they discuss the role of the ACLU in key civil rights events, both locally and nationally, along with some musings on early 2020 politics.

headphone sound iconListen to the full conversation here:

Audio (mp3) 

Audio (mov)

About the speakers

As a married journalism duo, Bill and Margaret Wolf Frievogel covered stories about civil rights and civil liberties for decades in St. Louis. Along with their extensive professional experience, Bill and Margaret also dove into the archives as the 2020 centennial approached.

Initially tasked with writing a book, their research ultimately contributed to the Liberty and Justice for All exhibition, with an essay in the exhibition catalog.

several booklets in a stackEmily Gross is one of seven undergraduate interns who helped track down the history of the ACLU-MO. Starting the fall 2019 semester, she worked to fill in missing gaps in the compiled timeline including surveying archives from the Mid-Missouri chapter and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)-Western Missouri preserved at the State Historical Society of Missouri. She concluded her internship in early 2020, assisting at the exhibit opening event and interviewing Bill.

person standing behind cart of archive boxes in a library

WashU student Emily Gross researches ACLU history at the State Historical Society of Missouri’s archives on the campus of UMSL. Fall 2019.

ACLU-MO @ 100

This post is part of a series in recognition of the American Civil Liberty Union of Missouri’s centennial year (1920-2020). Read more stories at:

If you have a question about this post or other topics related to St. Louis history, I can be reached at or on Twitter @mrectenwald

About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.