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Ira Glasser is one of America’s unsung champions of civil rights and liberties. As the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union for 23 years, he transformed the organization from a small, “mom-and-pop” operation on the verge of bankruptcy into a civil liberties juggernaut with offices in every state and a $30 million endowment. As his generation retires from the barricades, Ira reminisces on his life at the forefront of defending the rights of all Americans, from civil rights leaders to neo-Nazis.
His story takes us to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where in 1947 Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers broke the color barrier in baseball and inspired a generation of civil rights activists; to the offices of Robert Kennedy, where the U.S. Senator spoke with a young Ira and convinced him to take his first job with the ACLU; and to California, where a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor explains to Ira why he thinks the ACLU was wrong to defend the right of neo-Nazis to demonstrate near his home in Skokie, Illinois, over 40 years ago — and how recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, evoke painful memories.
Amid high-profile controversies surrounding free speech, racial equality, and antisemitism — and on the occasion of the ACLU’s centennial — Ira Glasser’s story is as timely and provocative as ever.
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