Database of the Week: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Papers, 1912-1990

Drawing on documents from across the history of the American Civil Liberties Union, this archive offers valuable insight into the civil battles of the twentieth century. From the more than 2 million pages in this collection, researchers can dive into debates on race, gender, popular protest, the role of police, and the role of government on both national and local levels. 

From the overview of the database, here is a sampling of what you will find in this archival collection of primary source materials: 
  • The files cover numerous topics that resonate for contemporary research. Subjects include: the first “Red Scare” following the Russian Revolution of 1917; debates in the 1920s on immigration; the American Birth Control League; lynchings in the 1930s; debates on aliens and immigrants in the years immediately preceding the U.S. entry into the Second World War; and the ACLU’s involvement in two of the mid-century’s most important issues: the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement. In the Second Reconstruction, 1945-1968, the ACLU played a vital role in the gradual but progressive movement to provide full political rights for African Americans and to begin to redress long-standing economic and social inequities.  
  • The files contain letters from officials in President Woodrow Wilson's administration and letters from other figures such as Felix Frankfurter, John Dewey, Upton Sinclair, Jane Addams, and Lillian Waldo.
  • Or track and visualize the popularity of terms found in the collection.
To find the American Civil Liberties Union Papers, or one of the other 390+ databases available from the library's online collection, go to All of our research databases are available in this alphabetical list. If you have any questions about using any database or on how to find more resources, don't hesitate to ask a librarian or contact the Research & Reference Desk.