Featured Story: Rights Amid Threats

As a result of World War I, the United States emerged as a dominant world power. As the country welcomed the "tired and huddled masses," it did so against a backdrop of social and political dissent, both nationally and internationally.

Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit of Hans Joachim von Fischer-Treuenfeld, February 8, 1918
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Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit of
Hans Joachim von Fischer-Treuenfeld,
February 8, 1918

Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits National Archives, Records of U.S. Attorneys, Record Group 118 (National Archives Identifier 2641493)

During World War I, German Americans were registered as alien enemies, including Hans Joachin von Fischer Treuenfeld. He voluntarily requested to be detained because of the treatment he was receiving from Americans, who suspected him of being a German spy.

Notice of Permission to Change Residence for Enemy Alien, April 9, 1918
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Notice of Permission to Change Residence for Enemy Alien, April 9, 1918

Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits National Archives, Records of U.S. Attorneys, Record Group 118 (National Archives Identifier 2641492)

Bill of Complaint, January 7, 1921
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Bill of Complaint, January 7, 1921

U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, Civil, Criminal, and Admiralty Case Files National Archives, Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21 (National Archives Identifier 2641495)

Settling in Oregon, Bhagat Singh Thind served during World War I and was naturalized at least twice. Denied citizenship by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the case ended up defining Asian Indians as non-white and ineligible for naturalization.

Photograph, Eugene V. Debs Speaking in Canton, Ohio, June 16, 1918
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Photograph, Eugene V. Debs Speaking in Canton, Ohio, June 16, 1918

The United States of America v. Eugene V. Debs, Criminal Case Files National Archives, Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21 (National Archives Identifier 2641496)

Speech by Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918
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Speech by Eugene V. Debs, June 16, 1918

The United States of America v. Eugene V. Debs, Criminal Case Files National Archives, Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21 (National Archives Identifier 2641497)

After a speech made in Canton, Ohio, opposing the war, prominent socialist leader Eugene V. Debs was arrested and charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918. The Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict, deciding that the First Amendment rights could be suppressed in times of war if the speech presented a “clear and present danger” to the United States.

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