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Archive for January, 2011

Sargent Shriver and his Peace Corps guerrillas

I am convinced that if, in the future, our country is to meet the unparalleled opportunity to win friends and advance the cause of peace and freedom, thousands of additional Americans will have to step forward and say, “I will serve.”
—from the statement of Robert Sargent  Shriver, given in Chicago, IL, on May 17, 1961

Sargent Shriver and President Kennedy greet Peace Corps Volunteers to Ghana and Tanganyika in the West Wing Collonade at the White House, August 28, 1961.

Sargent Shriver and President Kennedy greet Peace Corps volunteers to Ghana and Tanganyika in the West Wing Collonade at the White House, August 28, 1961. (Kennedy Library; ARC 194174)

Robert Sargent Shriver (1915–2011) lived a long and full life, fighting in World War II as a gunner on a Navy boat during the the Battle of Guadalcanal, serving as the ambassador to France in the late 1960s, and joining the extensive Kennedy clan when he married Eunice Kennedy in 1953. He also ran as the vice-presidential candidate with George McGovern against Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in 1972.

But in the National Archives, Sargent Shriver’s legacy is the Peace Corps. Shriver served as the first Director of the Peace Corps from 1961 to 1966. A search in the OPA database yields numerous Peace Corps documents, including the statement below, describing Shriver’s trip to eight countries to speak with heads of state and the men and women on the street about the possibility of Peace Corps volunteers coming to live and work there.

Sargent Shriver … [ Read all ]

January 18, 1964 – Martin Luther King, Jr. & LBJ

Martin Luther King, Jr. (3rd from left), with Roy Wilkins, James Foarmer, adn Whitney Young, met with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office in January 1964. (LBJ Library)

Martin Luther King, Jr. (center), with Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, and Whitney Young, met with President Lyndon Johnson in the Oval Office on January 18, 1964. (LBJ Library)

Martin Luther King, Jr., would have been 82 on January 15, and yesterday we observed the national holiday in his honor.

The above photograph shows a January 18, 1964, White House meeting between four civil rights leaders—Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Whitney Young—and President Lyndon Johnson. A civil rights bill was stuck in the House Rules Committee, and the President was determined to get it moving.

Only five months before the photograph was taken, these same four men had spoken before nearly a quarter of a million people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, Jr., the final speaker on that day, inspired the crowd with his ringing declaration that “I have a dream.”

The House finally voted in February 1964 and sent the bill to the Senate. As the year progressed, LBJ’s legislative orchestrations, combined with actions by civil rights supporters on the streets, got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The President signed it on July 2, and King, Wilkins, Farmer, and Young were in the East Room of the White House with him. (The story of getting the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 through Congress is told in the Summer 2004 issue … [ Read all ]

Explore the new Digital Archives at the Kennedy Library

President Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962. In this speech he stated stated, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." (Kennedy Library)

President Kennedy speaking at Rice University on September 12, 1962. In this speech he stated, "We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard." (Kennedy Library)

It’s always exciting to uncover a new piece of history, and even more exciting to discover a whole new treasure trove of thousands of pieces of history. Today the John F. Kennedy Library is launching a new Digital Archives that contains over 200,000 digitized documents; 300 reels of audiotape containing over 1,200 individual recordings of telephone conversations, speeches, and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of moving images; and 1,500 photos.

You can peruse the drafts of every speech delivered by the President, thousands of official White House photographs, audio of all of President Kennedy’s speeches, and video of press conferences during his years in office. And tags and categories help you find related records among all types of media.

For example, I browsed photographs of President Kennedy to find an illustration for this post, and the above picture caught my eye. After calling up the full record, I selected “Related Records” and was led to links to audio and video recordings of the September 12, 1962, speech at Rice University and to marked drafts and the reading copy of the speech.… [ Read all ]

The few, the proud, the letter-writers to the Marines

In 1943, you wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. In 2011, the National Archives  featured your letter on YouTube! How would you feel?

L. J. Weil feels pretty good, actually. “Wonderful!  It’s great to be honored this way,” he said when National Archives staff reached him at his home in Lousiana.

Weil’s letter to the President Roosevelt was sent in 1943, and 67 years later it was chosen to be featured as the demonstration model for the National Archives  new search engine.

What prompted Weil write to President Roosevelt? Weil was 10 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, an event he still clearly remembers. Two years later, it was 1943, and the United States was in midst of fighting World War II. Weil wanted to help.

He wrote to President Roosevelt, offering his services as a mascot. “I’m twelve years old and a little young to get into anything right now, but when I am a little older, well just you wait and see,” Weil wrote.

Weil did receive a reply but only received what he called a “brush off” from a Marine officer, who noted that there was no law about appointing official mascots. “The patriotic motive which prompted your office of service is appreciated, however, and hope that when you reach the required age of enlistment in the Marine Corps you will avail your self of the opportunity … [ Read all ]

“I’m 15 and I feel like 80″

On today’s date in 1964,  “Introducing the Beatles” was released. It was the Beatles’ first album in the United States.

For Janelle Blackwell, the album would have dire consequences, aging her 65 years. In April of 1964, she wrote to the U.S. Labor Department, ending her letter with the statement  “I’m 15 and I feel like 80.”

What could cause a teenager to feel like an old woman?

The answer is surprisingly bureaucratic: The immigration status of the Beatles.

Thousands of teenagers had been sent into a froth of distress over the new rules put in place for foreign entertainers by the U.S. Labor Department in April 1964. Misleading newspaper reports started rumors that the Beatles would not be allowed back into the United States.

For Janelle, these reports were too much. Sickened by the thought that the mop-topped foursome could never step foot on American soil, she and three friends had to stay home sick from school. Janelle used her time to write a passionate argument to the Labor Department in favor of her band. Even if they had done something improper, she said, “you must all agree the teenagers of the U.S. want them back.”

Fortunately for Janelle and her fellow American teenagers, the rumors were cleared up, and the Beatles were able to return on several occasions.

It’s been a while since I was a teenage girl, … [ Read all ]