Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America

Ellis Cose. New Press, $29.99 (480pp) ISBN 978-1-62097-383-7
In this comprehensive and even-handed history of the ACLU, journalist Cose (The Rage of the Privileged Class) details the organization’s inner workings as well as milestones in its mission to protect civil rights. Exploring the ACLU’s involvement in the early 20th-century labor movement, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, school desegregation, Vietnam War–era draft resistance, the post-9/11 “war on terror,” and other social issues, Cose highlights the idealism of its leaders, as well as internal divisions over its goals and methods. He notes, for example, the forced removal of a founding board member with Communist Party ties in 1940, and “soul searching” over the decision to defend the First Amendment rights of white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017. Cose contends that a “decline of truth” in the current political moment poses a unique challenge to the ACLU, which must find a way to continue its core mission of defending free speech while also protecting American democracy itself. Cose covers an impressive amount of ground, though some of the granular details about personnel matters feel superfluous. Still, this judicious account reveals just how integral the ACLU has been to the past century of American history. (July)
Reviewed on : 04/22/2020
Release date: 07/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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