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

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Published to coincide with the ACLU’s centennial, a major new book by the nationally celebrated journalist and bestselling author. For a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to keep Americans in touch with the founding values of the Constitution. As its centennial approached, the organization invited Ellis Cose to become its first ever writer-in residence, Published to coincide with the ACLU’s centennial, a major new book by the nationally celebrated journalist and bestselling author. For a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to keep Americans in touch with the founding values of the Constitution. As its centennial approached, the organization invited Ellis Cose to become its first ever writer-in residence, serving as an “embedded journalist” with complete editorial independence. The result is Cose’s groundbreaking Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU and Its 100-Year Battle for Our Rights, the most authoritative account ever of America’s premier defender of civil liberties. A vivid work of history and journalism, Our Democracy, If We Can Keep It is not just the definitive story of the ACLU but also an essential account of America’s rediscovery of rights it had granted but long denied. Cose’s narrative begins with World War I and brings us to today, chronicling the ACLU’s role through the horrors of 9/11, the saga of Edward Snowden, and the phenomenon of Donald Trump. A chronicle of America’s most difficult ethical quandaries from the Red Scare, the Scottsboro Boys’ trials, Japanese American internment, McCarthyism, and Vietnam, Democracy, If We Can Keep Itweaves these accounts into a deeper story of American freedom—one that is profoundly relevant to our present moment.


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Published to coincide with the ACLU’s centennial, a major new book by the nationally celebrated journalist and bestselling author. For a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to keep Americans in touch with the founding values of the Constitution. As its centennial approached, the organization invited Ellis Cose to become its first ever writer-in residence, Published to coincide with the ACLU’s centennial, a major new book by the nationally celebrated journalist and bestselling author. For a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has fought to keep Americans in touch with the founding values of the Constitution. As its centennial approached, the organization invited Ellis Cose to become its first ever writer-in residence, serving as an “embedded journalist” with complete editorial independence. The result is Cose’s groundbreaking Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU and Its 100-Year Battle for Our Rights, the most authoritative account ever of America’s premier defender of civil liberties. A vivid work of history and journalism, Our Democracy, If We Can Keep It is not just the definitive story of the ACLU but also an essential account of America’s rediscovery of rights it had granted but long denied. Cose’s narrative begins with World War I and brings us to today, chronicling the ACLU’s role through the horrors of 9/11, the saga of Edward Snowden, and the phenomenon of Donald Trump. A chronicle of America’s most difficult ethical quandaries from the Red Scare, the Scottsboro Boys’ trials, Japanese American internment, McCarthyism, and Vietnam, Democracy, If We Can Keep Itweaves these accounts into a deeper story of American freedom—one that is profoundly relevant to our present moment.

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

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    3.5 In 2016 my husband was one of a million people who donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a reaction to the election of Donald J. Trump. He told me he didn't always agree with them, such as supporting hate groups rights to free speech, but he did believe in their mission of protecting civil liberties. I had read about Ruth Ginsberg's work with the ACLU in Conversations with RBG. I wanted to know more about the history and legacy of the ACLU. Democracy, If We Can Keep It by Elli 3.5 In 2016 my husband was one of a million people who donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as a reaction to the election of Donald J. Trump. He told me he didn't always agree with them, such as supporting hate groups rights to free speech, but he did believe in their mission of protecting civil liberties. I had read about Ruth Ginsberg's work with the ACLU in Conversations with RBG. I wanted to know more about the history and legacy of the ACLU. Democracy, If We Can Keep It by Ellis Cose was often fascinating, especially when dealing with the landmark cases, but some places I speed read. Throughout American history, the federal government has enacted laws that reflected popular anxiety but threatened civil rights. As this history shows, the limiting of civil liberties has not been relegated to one time or one side of the political spectrum. Democracy is an ongoing experiment. The ACLU has continually developed and honed its mission in response to a changing world. Its history is a history of America and the continual fight for the freedom of speech and dissent. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    I grew up being told how awful the ACLU is. This book defines it's history, good and bad and the struggles that have gone with who and what is defendable. The book discusses how they began simply as a Free Speech advocate and have expanded to defend all of the Bill of Rights. There is a lot about Supreme Court Justices and decisions that still affect us today, but that makes sense when we are dealing with the Bill of Rights. You may or may not agree with all the stances that the ACLU stands and I grew up being told how awful the ACLU is. This book defines it's history, good and bad and the struggles that have gone with who and what is defendable. The book discusses how they began simply as a Free Speech advocate and have expanded to defend all of the Bill of Rights. There is a lot about Supreme Court Justices and decisions that still affect us today, but that makes sense when we are dealing with the Bill of Rights. You may or may not agree with all the stances that the ACLU stands and has stood for, but you should want to understand them before any last judgements. This book will help do that.

  3. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America by Ellis Cose is a fascinating and fair look back at the history of the organization. This is the story of free speech, or the battle for free speech, in the US over the past century. Some famous cases but also many lesser known cases that were every bit as important as precedent setters. There is also a bit of the internal debates and personnel issues that have occurred over the years. While the internal issues having Democracy, If We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America by Ellis Cose is a fascinating and fair look back at the history of the organization. This is the story of free speech, or the battle for free speech, in the US over the past century. Some famous cases but also many lesser known cases that were every bit as important as precedent setters. There is also a bit of the internal debates and personnel issues that have occurred over the years. While the internal issues having to do with cases was particularly interesting I could have done without a lot of the purely internal issues. But, to be fair, those sections were few and far between and served to help the reader understand that not everything the ACLU does or has done comes without internal debate and, sometimes, shake up. The chapter on Trump and the ACLU's decision to represent Kessler illustrates clearly that the ACLU is about free speech and not simply some left/right type of issue selection. I admit to falling into the camp that would like a stricter concept of free speech so I didn't agree with their decision there. I believe there was sufficient evidence to support the idea that there would be violence, but I don't know exactly how much has come out after the fact. As much as white supremacists and neo-Nazis are worthless they do have a right to free speech, but NOT speech or events that seek to cause violence. I recently completed Confessions of a Free Speech Lawyer: Charlottesville and the Politics of Hate by Rodney Smolla which defends the right of free speech but also brings to light some information that has largely been uncovered since the event. Make no mistake, no one will agree with the views of every case the ACLU has taken on. That isn't, however, what the organization is about. It is not truly a left or right organization unless the right believes there should not be free speech. So the little cowards who give one star without reading the book are, without question, the types of people who cheered the death in Charlottesville. They didn't read the book, or the others they also one starred, mainly because there are words here longer than one syllable, so it is beyond them. Ignore those trolls, they just want to continue to be able to display their racism and stupidity openly and Trump empowers them to do so since he so openly displays his racism and stupidity. I highly recommend this to readers who would like to learn more about some of the major free speech cases of the past century. You will find yourself grappling with just how we should promote free speech, how we should define it, and what should perhaps be limited or not allowed. It is not and should not be based on our level of agreement with the views but on whether those views are simply being expressed or, like many right wing rallies, designed to promote violence both at the event and after the instigators have left town. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin Barnes

    Thanks to NetGalley and The New Press for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I rarely quit books, but unfortunately I had to make an exception for this one. I wanted to like this book, as I was really interested in the premise and I wanted to learn more about some of the ACLU's landmark cases. However, the organization of this book just completely did me in. The sections and chapters are extremely long, so you feel like you're not making any progress, and the book lit Thanks to NetGalley and The New Press for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I rarely quit books, but unfortunately I had to make an exception for this one. I wanted to like this book, as I was really interested in the premise and I wanted to learn more about some of the ACLU's landmark cases. However, the organization of this book just completely did me in. The sections and chapters are extremely long, so you feel like you're not making any progress, and the book literally reads like a textbook. The author spends a ton of time on diving into people and their backstories at the expense of developing any sort of momentum. This book has a lot of potential but unfortunately didn't deliver.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Susan Lenci

    Democracy, If We Can Keep It The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America by Ellis Close is a fantastic resource for understanding some of the American Civil Liberties Union’s most important and influential cases and the impact on society. As a U.S. Government teacher, I appreciate how the book is easy to understand without too much legal jargon and emphasizes the importance of these cases without sounding exaggerated or over the top. I’ve made references to this book in class and encourage s Democracy, If We Can Keep It The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America by Ellis Close is a fantastic resource for understanding some of the American Civil Liberties Union’s most important and influential cases and the impact on society. As a U.S. Government teacher, I appreciate how the book is easy to understand without too much legal jargon and emphasizes the importance of these cases without sounding exaggerated or over the top. I’ve made references to this book in class and encourage students to also read the book for a great context of rights we have, and sometimes take for granted.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

    The ACLU is one of those institutions that people hear about but have no idea what they do or how they came to be. This author does a brilliant job of filling the reader in on the rich and important history and how important the ACLU is in ensuring that we always have the freedom of speech, especially in these turbulent times. This is a must read!

  7. 5 out of 5

    SB

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carol Dimitriou

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    Kate Zimmerman

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    Melissa Cheresnick

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    Andrew Pavlik

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    Gaia

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brilliance Publishing

  18. 4 out of 5

    wishforagiraffe

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    Steff

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    PabloHabla

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