Freedom House: A History

Freedom House was established in 1941 in New York City.  It emerged from an amalgamation of two groups  that had been formed, with the quiet encouragement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to encourage popular support for American involvement in World War II at a time when isolationist sentiments were running high in the United States.

From the outset, Freedom House was notable for its bipartisan character.  In its early years, its board of trustees was drawn from a broad and eclectic group of prominent Americans: leaders from business and labor, journalists, academics, former government officials.  A key figure among its early leaders was Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee in 1940.  Eleanor Roosevelt was also a strong supporter and served as honorary chairman in the organization's early years.  

From the outset, Freedom House was notable for its bipartisan character.  In its early years, its board of trustees was drawn from a broad and eclectic group of prominent Americans: leaders from business and labor, journalists, academics, former government officials.  A key figure among its early leaders was Wendell Willkie, the Republican presidential nominee in 1940.  Eleanor Roosevelt was also a strong supporter and served as honorary chairman in the organization's early years.  

Having been launched in response to the threat posed by one great totalitarian evil, Nazism, Freedom House took up the struggle against the other twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism, after the conclusion of World War II.  The organization's leadership was convinced that the spread of democracy would be the best weapon against totalitarian ideologies.  Freedom House thus embraced a mission to work to expand freedom around the world and to strengthen human rights and civil liberties in the United States.  Freedom House thus strongly endorsed the post-war Atlantic Alliance, as well as such key policies and institutions as the Marshall Plan and NATO.

During the 1950s, Freedom House was an aggressive foe of McCarthyism.  It was also an early supporter of the movement for racial equality.  Through the years, Freedom House has included among its leadership prominent civil rights leaders, most notably Roy Wilkins, the director of the NAACP, and Bayard Rustin, a leading adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Having been launched in response to the threat posed by one great totalitarian evil, Nazism, Freedom House took up the struggle against the other twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism, after the conclusion of World War II.  The organization's leadership was convinced that the spread of democracy would be the best weapon against totalitarian ideologies.  Freedom House thus embraced a mission to work to expand freedom around the world and to strengthen human rights and civil liberties in the United States.  Freedom House thus strongly endorsed the post-war Atlantic Alliance, as well as such key policies and institutions as the Marshall Plan and NATO.

During the 1950s, Freedom House was an aggressive foe of McCarthyism.  It was also an early supporter of the movement for racial equality.  Through the years, Freedom House has included among its leadership prominent civil rights leaders, most notably Roy Wilkins, the director of the NAACP, and Bayard Rustin, a leading adviser to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the 1970s, Freedom House became concerned about the erosion of freedom in many parts of the developing world.  With Marxist regimes, juntas, and military strongmen holding sway over swathes of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, Freedom House responded with a program that combined research and analysis, advocacy, and on-the-ground involvement in crisis areas.