"The ACLU was founded in 1920 by a committee including Helen Keller, Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, Walter Nelles, Morris Ernst, Albert DeSilver, Arthur Garfield Hayes, Jane Addams, Felix Frankfurter. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and Rose Schneiderman. Its focus was on freedom of speech, primarily for anti-war protesters. During the 1920s, the ACLU expanded its scope to include protecting the free speech rights of artists and striking workers, and working with The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to decrease racism and discrimination. During the 1930s, the ACLU started to engage in work combating police misconduct and supporting Native American rights. Many of the ACLU's cases involved the defense of Communist Party members and Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1940, the ACLU leadership voted to exclude communists from its leadership positions, a decision rescinded in 1968. During World War II, the ACLU defended Japanese-American citizens, unsuccessfully trying to prevent their forcible relocation to interment camps. During the Cold War, the ACLU headquarters were dominated by a anti-communists, but many local affiliates defended members of the Communist Party.
"By 1964, membership had risen to 80,000, and the ACLU participated in efforts to expand civil liberties. In the 1960s, the ACLU continued its decades-long effort to enforce separation of church and state. It defended several anti-war activists during the Vietnam War. The ACLU was involved in the Miranda case, which addressed conduct by police during interrogations. and in the New York Times case, which established new protections for newspapers reporting on government activities. In the 1970s and 1980s, the ACLU ventured into new legal areas, involving the rights of homosexuals, students, protesters, and the poor. In the twenty-first century, the ACLU has fought the teaching of creationism in public schools and challenged some provisions of anti-terrorism legislation as infringing on privacy and civil liberties. Fundraising and membership spiked after the 2016 election; the ACLU's current membership is more than 1.2 million."
Some of the ACLU's stands have not been popular, but that is what can happen when one is standing for a principle.