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In Defense of American Liberties, Second Edition: A History of the ACLU Paperback – November 3, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Walker (criminal justice, Univ. of Nebraska), an active American Civil Liberties Union member who had complete access to its archives, has written a comprehensive history of this unique and often controversial organization, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary next month. What emerges is a candid but sympathetic account of the ACLU's triumphs and defeats, its strengths and failings, and fascinating pen pictures of its charismatic but often quarrelsome leaders, particularly Roger Baldwin, who was the ACLU's first executive director until forced out in 1950 after 30 years. Walker makes plain that it was by fearlessly championing unpopular or even "dangerous" ideas of the time that the ACLU became a major force in shaping American attitudes on civil liberties. Highly recommended.
- Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll.,
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"This book is more than a compelling history of the ACLU. It is the fascinating story of America's most exciting legal struggles and of rights reviled in one era and vindicated in the next." —Eleanor Holmes Norton


"[A] marvelous history of the ACLU. It made me relive some of my past life and taught me things I had either forgotten or never knew." —William Kunstler



"[A] fusion of masterful scholarship with libertarian thinking. An indispensable access to the very essence of American ethos."—Jerzy Kosinski

"The story is so dramatic it sometimes tells itself."—New York Times Book Review

"A definitive history . . . written tightly and well."—Washington Post Book World

"A rich, textured history of the ACLU . . . brings the group and its members to life. . . . Walker's discussion of anticommunism within the ACLU is one of the best examples of his own lack of bias and his willingness to present the organization's history, warts and all."—Harvard Law Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 536 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 2nd edition (November 3, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809322706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809322701
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,111,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Samuel Walker is Isaacson Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, where he has taught for over 30 years. He is the author of 13 books on policing, criminal justice history and policy, and civil liberties. Current research involves police accountability, focusing primarily on citizen oversight of the police and police Early Warning (EW) systems. Professor Walker currently serves on the Panel on Policing of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ricky Hunter on February 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
Samuel Walker has created a wonderful book on the history of the ACLU, In Defense of American Liberties, that is a must for anyone concerned with the history of freedom of speech and the men and women who fought for them in America. This book shows the development from fringe to mainstream of the ideas shared by a group of people in the 1910's. The book is by no means hagiography as the darker moments of the ACLU are presented with clarity, such as their hounding and forcing out of Communist members simply for their beliefs. It is both very informative and truly entertaining. A wonderful book that demonstrates the importance the ACLU has had in the twentienth century shaping political ideas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James E. Egolf VINE VOICE on February 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Samuel Walker wrote IN DEFENSE OF AMERICAN LIBERTIES which is a good history of the ACLU which was started in 1920. Walker's book is an honest assessment of the ACLU including both the ACLU's successes and failures.Those who cherish their civil liberties will have a better appreciation of the work of the ACLU and those civil libertarians who demanded their rights via The Bill of Rights.

Walker started this book by citing incidents of mob violence during the 19th. century. There were vigilante mobs who attacked those who were "different." Walker cited attacks on Catholics in an 1856 attack in Chaleston, SC led by "pillars of the community." As bad as these mob attacks were, they were sporadic and not sanctioned by the U.S. government as a matter of policy.

According to Walker that changed with the entry of the U.S. into W.W. I. U.S. government officials "deputized" vigilante groups who conducted slacker raids against those who were not drafted or expressed dissent.Such high-handed violence was actually sanctioned by both state and federal government officials. Mr. Walker could have asked why those who conducted the slacker raids were not in the military themselves.

An interesting anecdote concerned Roger Baldwin who helped found the ACLU. He resisted the draft, produced himself in court, and admitted what he did. Judge Julius Meyer stated he appreciated Baldwin's class, manners, and courage. The judge politely scolded Baldwin, but also told Baldwin that what was considered wrong in one historical era could be considered right and honorable later. Baldwin did well the short time he was in prison where he "converted" fellow prisoners and befriended the warden who was Irish and did not like the fact that U.S. forces were assisting the British.
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The book offers an excellent review of the ACLU by sharing the complexities of themes and development of the organization. this book keeps focused on the main organization though it touches on significant developments in regional CLUs also. The range of the history goes from the very beginnings to 1990. The book deals with the complexities of issues, the complexities of dialog within the ACLU, and the compromises that political realities have forced upon the ACLU. The organization is not monolithic, a most important insight to gain from this book for critics and supporters alike. The book is also well indexed to continue being a good resource.
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In Defense of American Liberties, Second Edition: A History of the ACLU
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