Marking the 100 year anniversary of the American Civil Liberties Union nationwide, CHS partnered with the ACLU of Northern California (ACLU-NC) to digitize and catalog the full run of the San Francisco-based chapter’s newsletter, ACLU News, dating back to 1936. The first decade, from 1936 to 1945, is now available on CHS’s Digital Library. The remaining volumes, from 1946 to the present, will be added to the online collection in the coming year.
The newsletters, mailed to ACLU-NC’s membership monthly or quarterly, include articles, case summaries, and editorial content related to the organization’s legal work and civil rights advocacy. Now searchable by keyword and subject, they provide rare documentation of political and social movements throughout the last 80 years. The newsletters, describing the organization’s legal work in lay-persons’ terms, can also serve as a kind of index for the organization’s records and case files housed in the CHS archives, which were processed earlier this year through a National Historical Publications & Records (NHPRC)-funded project titled “People, Power, and Politics: Providing Access to Contemporary Social Movements Collections.”
The first decade of the ACLU News covers issues ranging from labor organizing, freedom of religion in the schools, sheriff-backed vigilantism, and the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans ordered by President Franklin Roosevelt. The newsletters document the organization’s representation of civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, who refused to go to the government’s incarceration camps, as well as support for a nine-year-old who was expelled from her elementary school for refusing to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States. The first issue, in March 1936, describes how two labor organizers in Santa Rosa were tarred and feathered and then paraded through the streets by a vigilante mob.
Newsletters were digitized by Two Cat Digital in San Anselmo, and were uploaded to the digital library along with OCR text that is keyword searchable. Subject headings for people, places, and topics were identified by Elaine Elinson, who served as editor of the ACLU News from 1980-2001, and by other current and former ACLU-NC staff. ACLU-NC Creative Strategist Gigi Harney coordinated the collaboration.