"Red Riots" and the Origins of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, 1915-1930

By Lynch, Shawn M. | Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

"Red Riots" and the Origins of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, 1915-1930


Lynch, Shawn M., Historical Journal of Massachusetts


Abstract: This article investigates the formation of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (CLUM) in the early twentieth century. This organization evolved as a reaction to local and national events, including the Palmer Raids and the wider Red Scare following World War I, as well as the Anti-Anarchy Bill passed by the Massachusetts General Court in the wake of the Roxbury "red riot" and the Lawrence textile mill strike. Unlike similar groups in other states, the CLUM began as a unit of another progressive association, the League for Democratic Control, before emerging as an independent group. This research is drawn from the author's dissertation, which focused on civil liberties in Boston, 1915-45.

The protection of civil liberties is never so tenuous as during times of national crisis. Fears of subversion from within are heightened. Public opinion often supports the suppression of the rights of individuals when undertaken for the defense of the nation. Students of contemporary politics need only look to the 2001 USA Patriot Act (HR 3162) for confirmation. The Patriot Act is, however, nothing new. It is but another link in a long chain of state and federal legislation stretching back to the foundation of the American colonies aimed at protecting the public from dangerous or radical philosophies.

The entry of the United States into World War I prompted a widespread crackdown on anti-war dissent. The subsequent success of the Russian Revolution of 1917 spurred a Red Scare following the end of the war. At the moment the US became a world power, the world never seemed so threatening to time-honored American values, whether prompted by German militarists or Russian Communists. The administration of President Woodrow Wilson acted swiftly to circumscribe criticism of the war, government policies, and the military, believing such disparagement to be detrimental to the monumental undertaking of "making the world safe for democracy."1

Restrictions on free speech in wartime created the need for an organization committed to defending the right to dissent and to aiding those facing coercive action from federal, state, and local authorities. This need spurred the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a nation-wide group based in New York, with many local affiliates, including one in Massachusetts. The affiliate that emerged in Boston resulted from a complex combination of spontaneous local action by concerned citizens coupled with prompting by Roger Baldwin of the ACLU. This was somewhat reflective of the experience in other states. What makes the Boston branch unique, however, was that it began as a unit of the local chapter of the British-based League for Democratic Control, from which it separated in 1920. The Boston group's main contribution from the late 1920s onward was its focus on combating censorship.2 The connection between Boston and the national organization would not solidify until the first years of the Great Depression when a deepening financial crisis forced the independent-minded Boston organization to seek financial shelter within the national ACLU.

THE NATIONAL SCENE

Government suppression of perceived "radical" speech in 1917 and 1918, along with the Red Scare in the immediate post-war years, served to mobilize the American Left. Numerous groups appeared both during and after the war, driven by a variety of aims, including pacifism, social justice, and the protection of civil liberties. These organizations included the League to Enforce Peace, the League for Democratic Control, the NonPartisan League, the National Popular Government League, and others. On both the local and national levels, the challenges brought on by the war spawned organizations dedicated to the protection of civil liberties.

One of the most important groups to emerge from this chaotic period was the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) in 1915, headquartered in New York City. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Red Riots" and the Origins of the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, 1915-1930
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.