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Archive for '- Civil Rights'

Records of Rights Vote: The Immigration Act

Cast your vote for the Immigration Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

On November 13, 1954, Ellis Island closed. More than 20 million immigrants had been processed through the island station since its opening in 1892.

But immigration was still limited. From 1924 until 1965, a person’s place of birth often determined his or her ability to immigrate legally into the United States. Immigration laws favored people from northern and western Europe over those from southern and eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Numerical limits, often called quotas, were assigned to each country. For example, a 1924 law allowed about 4,000 Italians to enter the United States annually while about 66,000 could emigrate from Great Britain. Asian immigrants, who entered the United States through Angel Island, were already largely banned from U.S immigration by other laws passed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

When President Johnson signed the 1965 amendments to the Immigration Reform Act of 1952, that system of country-based immigration quotas was ended.

“This system violated the basic principle of American democracy–the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man,” said the President at the ceremony on Liberty Island.

The law authorized 120,000 immigration visas for people from the western hemisphere and … [ Read all ]

Records of Rights Vote: “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote”

Cast your vote for the 26th Amendment to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

Congress can move quickly. The 26th Amendment was ratified in 100 days, faster than any other amendment.

In April 1970, Congress controversially lowered the voting age to 18 as part of legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many people, including President Richard Nixon, believed that it was the right of the states, not the federal government, to set the voting age. President Nixon, nevertheless, signed the act, which was to go into effect January 1, 1971.

The effort to lower the voting age to 18 had begun three decades earlier. “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote,” a slogan first heard during World War II, was adopted by student activists during the Vietnam War.

In 1942, the slogan prompted Congressman Jennings Randolph of West Virginia to propose an amendment to the Constitution lowering the voting age to 18. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson both championed the cause. Activists during the Vietnam War increased pressure on Congress to change the voting age, and in 1971, when Senator Randolph reintroduced his original proposal, it passed overwhelmingly.

On December 21, 1970, the Supreme Court ruled that the government had indeed overstepped its legislative bounds in lowering … [ Read all ]

Free Film Festival in honor of Steven Spielberg

film festival

Now is your chance to ask Steven Spielberg a question on Twitter using the hashtag #askspielberg!

Over the next few weeks, Ken Burns will handpick several tweets and share the questions with the movie director. Spielberg will answer the questions at the at the Foundation for the National Archives 2013 Gala and Records of Achievement Award ceremony at the National Archives.

So tweet your question to @archivesfdn and use the hashtag #askspielberg.

The director is being honored by the Foundation for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival!

Presented in association with DreamWorks Studios, this free public film festival will showcase:

Free tickets will be distributed at the Special Events entrance to the National Archives at 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, beginning 60 minutes prior to showtime. Seating is limited and first-come, first-served.

For more information about the Spielberg Film Festival, visit http://www.archivesfoundation.org/programs/steven-spielberg-film-festival/

Spielberg is receiving the Records of Achievement Award, given to an individual whose work has fostered a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the … [ Read all ]

Records of Rights Vote: The 14th Amendment

Cast your vote now for the 14th Amendment to be displayed first in the new Rubenstein Gallery. Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, the Historian of the National Archives.

Why should the 14th Amendment be ranked first on any list of most important documents?

A constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship for all, Federal protection of due process, and the mandate for equal protection under the law—each could individually be considered among the most significant legislation in U.S. history. And all three are included in just the first section of the 14th Amendment.

The amendment originated after the Civil War when Congress tried passing legislation to secure civil rights for the recently freed slaves. President Andrew Johnson repeatedly vetoed these bills because he believed individual states had the right to determine the status of freedmen without interference from the Federal government.

In order to take the issue out of Johnson’s reach, Congress chose to address civil rights with a constitutional amendment. On June 13, 1866, Congress approved a five-part amendment to the Constitution and on July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment became law.

Section one of the amendment includes its most vital components.

First, the Citizenship Clause ensured that anyone born in the United States—regardless of race, color, or familial status—was automatically a U.S. citizen. The clause made citizenship a fixed condition, taking the issue … [ Read all ]

Executive Order 9981: Equality in the military

Cast your vote for Executive Order 9981 to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

Today’s post comes from Tammy Williams, archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

President Harry S. Truman spent his entire young adulthood in Missouri, a border state during the Civil War. Both of his sets of grandparents owned slaves. Many voters and politicians believed that Truman would carry his region’s prejudices to the White House and would do comparatively little to advance the cause of civil rights. And so Truman’s decision to issue Executive Order 9981 to provide for equality of treatment and opportunity in the military surprised many people.

What led President Truman to this decision? As African American soldiers returned to the United States from fighting overseas in World War II, they hoped to return to a more equitable society. However, many soldiers experienced openly hostile reactions from white Southerners as they wore their uniforms in their hometowns.

Two such cases made national headlines. In Aiken, South Carolina, a bus driver kicked Sergeant Isaac Woodward off a bus for allegedly being disruptive, and a police officer beat him and gouged out his eyes, blinding him. In Monroe, Georgia, a group of white men dragged two soldiers and their wives from a car and shot them.

In September 1946, shortly … [ Read all ]