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Niagara Frontier Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0107

Scope and Contents

Includes Records dated 1934-1978, of the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its predecessors, including correspondence, minutes, case files, news releases, background files, photographs, newspaper clippings and other materials. The activities of the chapter were largely confined to the city of Buffalo and nearby Erie and Niagara Counties, but occasionally the chapter was involved in cases and issues in other parts of Western New York. Also Included are records of the Upstate New York Division which document its efforts to build ACLU membership in the "Southern Tier" of New York State and particularly in Ithaca, N.Y. in the early 1960's. Correspondence documents the organizational life of the chapter both internally and in its relations with the national ACLU (including correspondence with Roger Baldwin) and later with the NYCLU. Letters from people in the local community congratulating or taking issue with the ACLU's position on various issues document public attitudes towards civil liberties. Other letters, primarily but not exclusively in the case files, seek the ACLU's assistance on a variety of legal issues. Complaint and case files document the work of the ACLU in numerous issues from Indian rights in the 1930's to prison reform in the 1970's. Also included are materials on legal cases. The earlier materials are generally filed by subject, e.g. "academic freedom" or "freedom of speech". Beginning in the mid 1960's, there are more extensive files arranged by personal name, with most case files dating from circa 1969-1975. Legal materials from circa 1976-1977 are unorganized.


  • 1934-1978


Terms of Access and Use

Pursuant to University Archives Restricted Records Policy, access to portions of this collection is RESTRICTED until June, 2053.

Legal cases are restricted 75 years from closure of case.

During embargo, case and client files may be accessed only if the client or the client’s legal representatives consent to disclosure.

Please see the Terms of Access and Use at the series, sub-series, and file level for specific information regarding the dates of restriction for specific materials within this collection.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and [University Archives or Poetry Collection] before requesting photocopies and/or publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Once permission is obtained, most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Historical note

The Erie County Civil Liberties Committee was formed in 1934 and affiliated with the national American Civil Liberties Union that same year. About 1951, the organization changed its name to the Niagara Frontier Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1963, an Upstate New York Division (UNYD) was created consisting of the Niagara Frontier Branch, (Redesignated the Niagara Frontier Chapter), the Genesee Valley Chapter (Rochester), and the Central New York Chapter (Syracuse and Ithaca). The UNYD shared staff and an office with the Niagara Frontier Chapter. In 1965, a statewide New York Civil Liberties Union was created and the UNYD was abolished. From 1965 onward, the Niagara Frontier Chapter was associated with both the national American Civil Liberties Union and the New York civil Liberties Union. In the mid-1970's the Niagara Frontier Chapter suffered financial difficulties which forced it to cut back and ultimately suspend operations. The chapter was formally abolished by the New York Civil liberties Union in 1980.


41 Linear Feet (41 record cartons.)

Language of Materials



Materials related to the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its predecessor the Erie County Civil Liberties Committee (ECCL). The materials are dated from 1934-1978 and include correspondence, promotional materials, legal briefs, court records, memoranda, financial records, annual reports, and case files.


Collection is organized into fourteen series: A. Erie County Civil Liberties Committee, 1934-1950; B. Niagara Frontier Branch, 1951-1978; C. Upstate New York Division/Affiliates, 1963-1970; D. Niagara Frontier Citizens for Impeachment, 1973-1974; E. Organizations (Non-ACLU), 1967-1972, 1974-1978; F. Policy Files, 1944 [1960-1972]; G. Subject Files, 1955 [1967-1972] 1975; H. Case Files, 1965 [1968-1973] 1975; I. Complaint Files; J. Card Indexes; K. American Civil Liberties Union, 1950-1974; New York Civil Liberties Union, 1965-1978; L. Court Briefs; M. Periodicals, 1949-1978. The material is arranged first by creator then by material type and lastly some of the records are then organized chronologically.

Other Finding Aids

The previous finding aid for this collection is in the accession file and it includes a historical note, scope and contents, a box and folder listing.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the Niagara Frontier Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, Records were donated to the State University of new York at Buffalo University Archive by ACLU member and official Dorothy Shields from the ACLU office located in the Crosby Building, in October 1980 and December 1980. Other portions of the collection were donated by Dr. Marvin Bernstein from the Department of History, in September 1982.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Processing Information

Minimally processed by Rebecca Cobb, June 2018; finding aid encoded by Rebecca Cobb, June 2018.

Finding aid for the Niagara Frontier Chapter, American Civil Liberties Union, records
In Progress
Finding aid prepared by archives staff.
8 June 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)