Traveling exhibit marks ACLU’s accomplishments

Posted Oct. 14, 2010, at 6:33 p.m.

PORTLAND — A traveling exhibit highlighting the work of the American Civil Liberties Union will be in Maine this month to mark the 90th anniversary of the organization.

“We have made great civil liberties progress in the last 90 years expanding the rights of free speech, due process and equal protection under the law,” Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, said Thursday in a press release. “The ACLU’s anniversary exhibit demonstrates the ACLU’s tireless efforts to make the Constitution a living document for everyone in the country. We hope that people will gain a greater awareness and understanding of the phenomenal scope of the ACLU’s work from the exhibit.”

The exhibit will be on from 6 to 9 tonight at Wellman Commons at the University of Maine during the MCLU’s annual meeting. It will be on display Saturday through Monday at the Portland International Jetport and from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Abromson Center Mezzanine at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

The traveling exhibit provides a historical overview of the ACLU’s achievements since its founding in 1920, according to the press release. The organization was established in response to the Palmer Raids, in which the Department of Justice, led by U.S. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, began rounding up and deporting so-called radicals because of their political views without warrants and without regard to constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure.

The exhibit includes the stories on the people the ACLU has represented, including John Scopes, a teacher accused of violating a Tennessee state law against the teaching of evolution in the 1920s; Ozzie Powell, one of the “Scottsboro Boys” sentenced to death in Alabama in the 1930s for allegedly raping a white woman, a crime he did not commit; Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple charged in the 1960s with violating Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act”; and Diane Schroer, an Army veteran whose job offer by the Library of Congress was rescinded when it learned that Schroer was in the process of changing gender.

The exhibit also highlights the ACLU’s role in the passage of major pieces of legislation, including the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, guaranteeing eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family responsibilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, prohibiting discrimination based on disability in employment, public services, accommodations, transportation and technology; and the periodic reauthorizations of several provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, protecting every American’s constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.

In addition to Maine, the ACLU’s traveling exhibit will be on display in a number of other states, including Nebraska, Missouri, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Iowa, New Jersey, Tennessee, Oklahoma, California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah, as well as Washington, D.C.

For information, call the MCLU at 774-5444.

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