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American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland Records

Identifier: R0002-ACLU

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the history and work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland between 1919 and 2019. It includes organizational records and histories of the nonprofit relating to the board, director, chapter files, and committees in addition to files regarding civil rights, litigation, and programs the organization has been involved in or worked on over the years. Notably, the collection includes the Thompson v. HUD files, and other files and reports relating to issues such as housing, discrimination, abortion, education, and others. This collection is mainly textual and includes case files, correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, and programs.


  • 1919-2019


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Consistent with its support of freedom of information and informed public discourse on matters of public interest, the American Civil Liberties Union Archives will be completely open to researchers. However, sections of the Archives shall be closed for stated periods of time to protect privacy, confidentiality, and attorney/client privilege. The following categories of records shall be restricted as indicated below:

Personnel Records - Records which deal with personnel issues, whether in personnel files or in other files maintained by the ACLU shall be closed during the lifetime of the person to whom they apply. When scattered personnel records are present in open files, they shall be governed by this paragraph. This restriction shall not apply if the person or persons to whom the record applies have given their permission in writing to disclose said information.

Administrative Records - Records maintained by ACLU administrators (Board and Executive committee members, officers, executives, department heads, project directors, etc.) shall be closed for twenty years after the creation of the record or ten years after its deposit in Langsdale Library, whichever is later, but in no case for more than 30 years after the creation of the record. Personnel records will continue to be closed as provided above.

Development Records - Records relating to financial support from foundations or other legal entities but not individuals or their family foundations shall be closed for the same period as administrative records. Records relating to financial support by individual donors or their family foundations shall be returned to the ACLU if other more substantive issues relating to policy are not raised by the correspondence. When other issues are relevant, these records shall be closed for the same period as administrative records. Where opened the portions relating to individuals or their family foundations shall be treated like personnel records as provided above.

Legal Case Records - Legal Case Files shall be segregated into four categories:

1) Open Records - publicly: available materials relating to the case (public court records such as briefs, transcripts, exhibits, and judgments as well as other records such as press releases and media coverage) shall be open immediately upon transfer to Langsdale Library.

2) Work Product Privileged Records - correspondence, memoranda, drafts of briefs prepared in anticipation of litigation, written statements of witnesses, and notes of mental impressions or personal recollections prepared or formed by an attorney shall be open twenty years after the closure of the case.

3) Attorney/Client Privileged Records - any document reflecting an exchange with a client or a potential client (including but not limited to written correspondence, memoranda to the file, notes, or any other report of communication to or from a client or potential client) made for the purpose of furnishing or obtaining professional legal advice and assistance shall be closed for seventy?five years for all clients, except for children where the period of closure shall be one hundred years.

4) The access rules set forth above do not apply to the following materials: classified documents; documents that have been placed under seal by a court or are subject to a protective order; documents that identify by name or otherwise clients that have been represented anonymously or pseudonymously; the terms of any confidential settlement or agreement. All such documents shall remain permanently closed unless the records are declassified, unsealed, the protective order is modified, or the client or the client's legal representative waives the privilege in writing.

Historical Note

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland was founded March 8, 1931 and (as of 2020) has approximately 42,000 members in Maryland. It is a nonprofit involved in litigation, legal services, public education, and advocacy regarding civil rights issues in the state. The Maryland ACLU was the 10th state ACLU affiliate created. The National ACLU was founded in 1920 and has over 2 million members. The Maryland ACLU currently has offices in Baltimore and Takoma Park, Maryland. The ACLU of Maryland supports the freedom of information and informed public discourse on matters of public interest. The nonprofit has been involved in civil rights issues and litigation such as housing segregation and economic mobility, abortion, education, voting rights and elections, freedom of speech and censorship, separation of church and state, civil disobedience, employment discrimination, racial discrimination, sex discrimination, the criminal and legal justice system, and others.

Information for this historical note was collected from the ACLU of Maryland website:


195.6 Linear Feet


This collection documents the history and work of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland between 1919 and 2019 and includes case files, correspondence, reports, publications, clippings, and programs. Notably the collection contains materials related to the nonprofit’s work regarding discrimination, housing, education, employment, gender, and other issues in Maryland.


Collection is organized in 12 series.

  • Series 1: Organization and History
  • Series 2: Governing Boards
  • Series 3: Thompson v. HUD
  • Series 4: Executive Director
  • Series 5: Committees
  • Series 6: Financial
  • Series 7: Publications
  • Series 8: Chapters
  • Series 9: Subject Files
  • Series 10: Court Cases
  • Series 11: Legislative Files
  • Series 12: Organizational Records, 1960-2016

Custodial History

The collection was donated to the University of Baltimore by John Roemer, former ACLU Executive Director, on November 19, 1981. There have been additional accessions of records from the organization since that time, including 100 linear feet of additional Thompson v. HUD records in May 2016, and 13 linear feet of organizational records in October 2019.


In order to provide access to records, sensitive information including privileged information and personal identifying information was redacted from Accession A002-02, described as subseries 3D: Thompson v. HUD Addition, by ACLU of MD staff members and volunteers between August 2018 and February 2020.

Accessing Digital Copies

Digital versions of items in this collection are available online. Locate records by using the "Print" button above, or browse records in “Collection Organization." Records with associated digital objects are identified with a red Digital Object icon.

Finding aid for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland Records
Finding aid created by Special Collections and Archives staff. Revised by Aiden Faust (2011, 2016). Revised by Laura Bell (2019, 2020, 2021).
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives Repository

H. Mebane Turner Learning Commons, Room 104
1415 Maryland Avenue
Baltimore Maryland 21201 USA