Democracy, If We Can Keep It

The ACLU’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America

A vivid work of history and journalism—the definitive story of the ACLU and an essential account of America’s rediscovery of rights it had granted but long denied

“We have worked with and battled American presidents of both parties to ensure that our country makes good on its founding premise as the land of the free.”
—from the ACLU’s full-page New York Times advertisement, following Donald Trump’s election

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’s 100-Year Fight for Rights in America, the most authoritative account ever of America’s premier defender of civil liberties. A vivid work of history and journalism, 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 It weaves these accounts into a deeper story of American freedom—one that is profoundly relevant to our present moment.

News and Reviews

USA Today

Read an op-ed in USA Today by author Ellis Cose that reflects upon the legacy of the ACLU on their centennial anniversary.