Local affiliates of the ACLU are active in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
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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 for Native American rights.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the ACLU ventured into new legal areas, defending homosexuals, students, prisoners, 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.
Legally, the ACLU consists of two separate but closely affiliated nonprofit organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, and the ACLU Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.
Both organizations engage in civil rights litigation, advocacy, and education, but only donations to the 501(c)(3) foundation are tax deductible, and only the 501(c)(4) group can engage in unlimited political lobbying.
It works through litigation, lobbying, and community empowerment.