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Archive for June, 2013

What are you doing on July 4?

Every year, we celebrate Independence Day on the steps of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. It’s a fun, free event for the whole family!

(And if you don’t like the heat, you can now watch the program live from inside the National Archives building. Email specialevents@nara.gov to reserve a seat in our air-conditioned theater.)

 

This year, Steve Scully of C-SPAN is our Master of Ceremonies. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will welcome the crowds. Our special guests George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Ned Hector, and Abigail Adams will read aloud the Declaration of Independence. This is your chance to boo and huzzah like the colonists of 1776!

The 3rd United States Infantry “Old Guard” Continental Color Guard will present the colors, and the United States Air Force Band will sing the National Anthem.

After the program, you can go into the building and see the original Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda where it is on permanent display. (Look for the mysterious handprint!) And don’t miss the family activities in the Boeing Learning Center.

Here’s the schedule of events—stay and watch the parade afterwards!

10 a.m.–11 a.m.

Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony

  • Presentation of colors by the Continental Color Guard*
  • Performance by the Fife and Drum Corps*
  • Remarks by Archivist of the United States David
  • [ Read all ]

Congratulations to our 2013 Research Fellows!

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2013 Research Fellowships! Fellows will be doing research at six of our archival facilities across the country. These fellowships are funded by the Foundation for the National Archives.

The National Archives at Boston
Claire M. Dunning,
a graduate student at Harvard University, will be doing research for “Neither Public Nor Private Yet Both: How the Nonprofit Sector Reshaped American Cities.” She will look at the nonprofit sector at the local level at the end of the 20th century and will trace the relationship between Federal funding and local nonprofit organizations.

The National Archives at Denver
James Jenks, the lead historian for Montana Preservation Alliance, will be working on “The Northern Cheyenne Homesteaders of Southeast Montana’s Tongue River and Otter Creek Valleys.” He will investigate the location and property ownership status of 46 Northern Cheyenne families who, during the late 19th century, homesteaded on traditional land located on the east side of the Tongue River and in the Otter Creek Valley in southeastern Montana.

The National Archives at Fort Worth
Susan Burch
is the Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. For the final phase of her research project “Dislocated: Removals, Institutions, and Community Lives in American History,” she will explore the history of the Hiawatha Asylum, the only federal psychiatric … [ Read all ]

My name is Harvey Milk—and I want to recruit you.

Today’s blog post comes from Michael Hussey, education and exhibit specialist at the National Archives.

What do Sean Penn and Ronald Reagan have in common? Probably not a whole lot besides Harvey Milk.

In 2008, Penn played the role of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in the Academy Award–winning film Milk.

In 1978, former Governor Ronald Reagan, Supervisor Milk, President Jimmy Carter, and former President Gerald Ford all opposed a ballot initiative sponsored by California state senator John Briggs. The “Briggs Initiative” would have banned gay men and lesbians from being teachers or otherwise employed by California school districts.

Milk, who had been elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, gave a rousing speech at the city’s 1978 Gay Freedom Day celebration. In it, he challenged Briggs and others to reexamine American history.

On the Statue of Liberty it says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . . . .” In the Declaration of Independence it is written “All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . . .” That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence. No matter how hard you try, you cannot chip those words from off the base of the Statue of

[ Read all ]

The Real Constitution Day?

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, historian of the National Archives.

June 21, 2013, marks the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s ratification. As we prepare for a long, hot summer here in the nation’s capital, I can only imagine what it felt like in 1787, when delegates from 12 states met in Philadelphia’s pre–air conditioning summer heat.

Their original purpose was revising the ineffective Articles of Confederation, the country’s first constitution. The delegates, however, soon decided to abandon the document altogether and start from scratch.

For four months the men worked tirelessly on a document outlining a new form of government. On September 17—now known as Constitution Day—delegates representing 12 states finished and signed the document (Alexander Hamilton signed the document even though New York lacked a quorum to vote in the convention).

Then the delegates passed a resolution to the Continental Congress, recommending that the Constitution be implemented upon approval by nine state conventions rather than by the unanimous approval of all 13 state legislatures as required by the Articles of Confederation.

On December 7, 1787, Delaware’s convention became the first to ratify the Constitution, earning the state its nickname “The First State.” Pennsylvania and New Jersey ratified later in December of 1787; and Georgia and Connecticut in January of 1788.

The remaining ratifications stalled as states argued that the new Constitution created a federal … [ Read all ]

The true story behind the Gettysburg sharpshooter

Today’s post comes from curator Bruce Bustard. These photographs and documents are on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, until July 15 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 5, 1863, photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant, Timothy O’Sullivan, arrived at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle had ended two days earlier. On parts of the battlefield, bodies were still unburied.

Over the next three days, Gardner did not hesitate to photograph the carnage. On July 6, when he saw the body of a Confederate soldier in an area called “Devil’s Den,” he photographed it. He and O’Sullivan then saw an opportunity for another, more dramatic photograph. They moved the corpse more than 40 yards to what they believed to have been the sharpshooter’s position, and O’Sullivan made another exposure.

The photographs became two of the most famous of the Civil War, but for over 100 years historians did not question the captions Gardner wrote for them in his Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. These described a “sharpshooter” who had died a slow death and who had spent his final moments thinking of his family. Gardner also wrote that when he returned to Gettysburg in November 1863, the body and the gun were still there.

In 1975, historian William A. Frassanito … [ Read all ]