Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence


  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Anti-Militarism, December 31, 1920 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Letter from the American Union Against Militarism to teachers of the United States, December 31, 1920.
Historical Context
The American Union against Militarism (AUAM) was a pacifist organization established in 1915 to oppose funding of the U.S. military and American involvement in war. Members of the AUAM established a Civil Liberties Bureau for the purpose of lobbying Congress against military funding and involvement. Roger Baldwin, an active leader of AUAM, also created the Bureau for Conscientious Objectors which provided legal and economic support for conscripted pacifists.
Support for conscientious objectors resulted in the organization receiving considerable attention from the federal government. The government considered leaders of this group unpatriotic and a threat to the country. As a result, many members of the American Union against Militarism were watched by government agents as dangerous individuals.
The American Union against Militarism dissolved as an organization in 1922. However, the Civil Liberties Bureau grew into the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  In 1920, Baldwin officially organized the American Civil Liberties Union after serving a prison term for violating the draft law.
Essential Question
How do individuals influence government policy?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of this letter and explain why this letter would be addressed to school teachers.
Historical Challenges
What role as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) played in the lives of Americans over the last century? Use specific examples of how the ACLU has impacted American social, economic, and political life.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Design a campaign poster for the American Union against Militarism.
English Language Arts: Imagine you are one of the teachers who received this letter from the AUAM. Write a letter to the organization explaining why you cannot join their organization.