At the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina (ACLU-SC), we envision a just South Carolina where We the People means all of us. To bring this vision to life, we advocate, litigate, educate, and mobilize to defend and advance the civil rights and civil liberties of all South Carolinians.
You’ll see us showing up in three arenas:
- In the courts, where we represent clients free of charge
- In the State House, where we fight for civil liberties beyond partisan lines
- In communities, where we build and support movements for liberation
The power of the ACLU-SC comes from our members — thousands of South Carolinians who fight for our freedoms. Join us by becoming a card-carrying member of the ACLU.
Founded in 1920, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has become the nation's foremost guardian of liberty. The South Carolina affiliate launched in 1968 with 200 members and a full plate of work. As one national board member reported at the ACLU meeting where the South Carolina affiliate was approved, “South Carolina is an area which badly needs a civil libertarian organization.” This remains true today.
Within its first decade of existence, the ACLU-SC entered major court battles — and won.
In 1973, civil rights lawyer Edna Smith Primus, the first Black graduate of USC Law, began offering free representation via the ACLU-SC to women who were being sterilized by the government against their will. A doctor sued Primus, who was serving as the ACLU-SC’s vice president. Her case made it all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled in Primus’ favor in 1978. Her case established crucial rights nationwide for attorneys soliciting clients in public-interest cases.
Other major victories in our early history include cases that secured the right of women to serve as pages in the South Carolina State House (Eslinger v. Thomas), the right of protesters to speak with their attorneys free of surveillance (Weatherford v. Bursey), and the right of South Carolinians to hold elected office regardless of their religious affiliation (Silverman v. Campbell).
Our Work Today
The ACLU-SC has grown and changed tremendously since those early days.
We’re still taking bad actors to court when they infringe upon the rights of South Carolinians. Our recent cases tackle some of the most pressing issues of the day; you can read about them here.
But we’re more than litigators. We’ve invested significant time and energy into fighting against bills that erode South Carolinians’ civil liberties — and fighting for laws that expand them. Visit our Legislation page for a look at the bills we’re currently tracking.
As a statewide organization, we’re building and supporting grassroots movements for change in communities across South Carolina. For more information on how you can get involved, check out our Campaigns and Events pages.
At the ACLU-SC, we know that the work we do alongside our members, volunteers, clients, and partners is challenging. Taking on injustice, protecting our democracy, preserving our freedoms — during a time when our values are under relentless attack — it's not easy.
When the days are hard, our team centers around our values:
- Focused on Justice. We know that people have been harmed by many forms of injustice—racial, gender, economic, and more—and we fight for the justice everyone deserves.
- Driven by Equity. We recognize the unequal starting points, systemic barriers, and historic inequities that keep justice from reach—and we use this awareness to strengthen our work.
- Strategic. We use our savvy and expertise to play the long game.
- Steadfast. We pursue our goals with integrity and aim to earn the trust of our partners, clients, volunteers, donors, and members.
- Collaborative. We work in partnership with our community and in coalitions, building shared power.
- Compassionate. We care about the people of South Carolina, and we seek to be brave together.
We don’t always win, but we stick around and stay in the fight. The ACLU has been fighting the toughest civil-liberties fights for more than one hundred years. We’ll keep showing up until We the People means all of us.