American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina records, 1960-2020; 1960-ongoing and undated 217.5 Linear Feet — approximately 135,000 items
The records of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU of NC) span forty years, from its inception in the early 1960s to its activities in the mid-2000s. The files provide documentation on nearly all aspects of the organization's operations, primarily focusing on the investigation of cases related to civil rights and many related issues, the legal prosecution of cases, public education relating to civil liberties, and lobbying for civil liberties and human rights. Materials include correspondence files from the Excecutive Director's office and other units in the ACLU of NC, beginning from the earliest years; thousands of case files dating from 1969 through the mid-2000s; the legal assistant's files on cases, operations, and attorney's activities; lobbying and subject files; and printed matter and other records relating to the ACLU-NC's outreach and public education activities. There are also some slides related to arts cases, videocassette and audiocassette recordings, and electronic files. Commonly recurring social and legal issues to which the ACLU of NC dedicated its efforts and resources include but are not limited to: the civil rights and legal status of legally under-represented groups such as juveniles and high school students, prisoners, gays, and immigrants; education and academic freedoms; religious freedom and separation of church and state; freedom of expression (including desecration of the flag); racial inequalities and injustices; reproductive rights; women's rights; police misconduct and the legality of search procedures; drug testing and the decriminalization of drugs; voting rights, including issues surrounding reapportionment; and workers' rights, including unionization. There are also many files on the Ku Klux Klan, Confederate displays, and right-wing organizations in NC
The collection is open to use. However, researchers consulting case files and any other materials in this collection should be aware of privacy laws that govern the publication and use of these records, especially in the case of third party information. Most personal names have been removed from case file titles in this web-accessible collection guide. The full version is available only to on-site researchers.
The Legal Program Series, the largest series in the collection at 260 boxes, chiefly consists of court case and other investigations files, and were created and maintained by the branch of the ACLU of NC called the North Carolina Legal Foundation. The files were marked variously as coming from the Office of the Legal Counsel or the Legal Program. These files were kept in their original order, which was generally chronological, though there are many overlapping series and fragmented sequences, some of which are alphabetical. When possible, the nature of the case or investigation is noted in a few words for each entry; keyword searching is the best means to discover names or topics (e.g., "parental consent,""prayer,""1st Amendment,""employee,""free speech," etc.).
Files in the Executive Director Office Series (90 boxes) refer to meetings, annual ACLU national conferences, litigation and political action strategizing, fundraising, and membership, and contain many individual legislative and court case files maintained by the Executive Director's Office (who at times in the ACLU of NC's history also served as the Legal Director). Extensive research and "issues" files, as they were often called, found both in the Legal Program and Executive Office Series, were most often used to support the case and investigative work, and therefore cover topics similar to the case files. Other subject files reflect the Executive Director's efforts to learn about issues relating to other affiliates of the ACLU.
Smaller but significant components of the collection include the Audiovisual Material Series, housing videocassettes and audio recordings, and the Print Material Series, which houses publications, clippings, reports, and other print material created by the ACLU of NC as well as material from other organizations. A nearly complete run of the ACLU of NC's newsletter, Liberty, can be found here, as well as multiple issues from such publications as Prison Law Monitor, Veteran's Advocate, and Youth Law News. Other publications are filed by topic. Many press releases, clippings, and files related to media relations are found in the Executive Director Office Series, and to a lesser extent in the Legal Program Series.
Researchers interested in the earliest history of the ACLU of NC should consult the small Historical Files Series which contains a 1970 history of the organization written by Daniel Pollitt and George Scheer, as well as copies of the original founding documents of incorporation, board and legal foundation meeting minutes from the 1960s to the 1980s, and other files. More complete files of early correspondence, meetings, and legal cases dating from the 1960s and 1970s can be found in other series.
Acquired as part of the Human Rights Archive at Duke University.