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Archive for '- Civil Rights'

Celebrating the life of an ancestor who was a “12 Years A Slave”

This past summer, Vera Williams attended her annual family reunion and Solomon Northup Day. The day honors her great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery in 1841. When Northup escaped, he wrote a book about his experiences and—most shockingly for that era—took his kidnappers to trial. The book was recently made into the movie 12 Years A Slave.

Solomon Northup Day was founded by Rene Moore, a local citizen of Saratoga Springs, NY, and has been celebrated for the past 15 years. Williams has helped organize family attendance to the events and manages a Facebook page for Solomon Northup Family and Friends. Relatives come together from across the country—including Williams’s own mother, who was honored this year as Northup’s oldest living descendant.

William fholding a first edition of "12 Years a Slave," written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Silver Springs where she was attending the 15-year celebration of Solomon Northup Day.

Williams, center, holding a first edition of 12 Years a Slave, written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she was attending Solomon Northup Day.Vera Williams has worked at the National Archives since 2010, but she had no idea that records documenting her family history were in her workplace.

This year, the attendees included film executives, actress Lupita Nyong’o, and other representatives from the movie 12 Years A Slave. Moore had contacted Fox Searchlight Pictures to tell them about the annual celebration, and in … [ Read all ]

Records of Right Vote: Americans with Disabilities Act

Today is the last day to vote! Do you want the Americans with Disabilities Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery? Vote now! 

Today’s guest post was written by Amber Powell, archivist at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

At the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (known as the ADA) on July 26, 1990, President George H.W.  Bush said, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day.  Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ’Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

On July 26, 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. With him on the South Lawn of the White House are (from left to right, sitting) Evan Kemp, Chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Justin Dart, Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; and (left to right, standing) Rev. Harold Wilke and Swift Parrino, Chairperson, National Council on Disability. Image from the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

The ADA proved to be a comprehensive declaration of equality, expanding federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans. The legislation … [ Read all ]

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.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Immigration Act, 10/03/1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Immigration Act, 10/03/1965 (National Archives Identifier 2803428)

[ 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.

Photograph of a young Marine landing at Danang, Vietnam, 08/03/1965

Photograph of a young Marine landing at Danang, Vietnam, 08/03/1965

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 … [ 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 ]