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Today is Emancipation Day for the District of Columbia. Some of you might immediately wonder if this is related to DC’s current efforts to win representation and a vote, but it is a celebration for a different kind of freedom for the residents of DC.
Eight and a half months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.
Lincoln had struggled with how to resolve the issue of slavery, even encouraging freed slaves to return to Africa. And of course, slavery in the nation’s capital was an even thornier issue—antislavery advocates spoke of “the national shame.”
The bill had some success. Over the next nine months, the Board of Commissioners appointed to administer the act approved 930 petitions, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.
Although its combination of emancipation, compensation to owners, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act was an early signal of slavery’s death. In the District itself, African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation. For many years afterward, Emancipation Day was celebrated with parades and festivals.
Archivists handle fascinating records, but the people who lived the lives recorded in the documents are even more fascinating. Such was the life of Frank Buckles, who passed away on February 27, aged 110.
Buckles’s passing means that there are no longer any living American servicemen who fought during World War I. Any memories and experiences from the Great War now exist only as written documents, recorded films, or still photographs.
In 2008, Richard Boylan and Mitch Yockelson (author of Borrowed Soldiers: Americans Under British Command) of the National Archives, made a special visit to West Virginia to meet World War I veteran Frank Buckles.
Military archivist Boylan came up with the idea of marking the 90th anniversary of the last year of World War I by presenting copies of National Archives records to the two still-living veterans. But in early January 2008, Harry Richard Landis passed away and Frank became the sole surviving soldier from World War I.
Buckles had enlisted in the Army by giving his age as 18, rather than his actual age of 16. He was stationed in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. The two archivists were able to locate over 50 pages of textual records regarding his service. Private researcher Susan Strange found 57 photographs of the area in Winchester, England, where he was stationed, as well as some motion picture … [ Read all ]
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 ]
Posted by Hilary on January 12, 2011, under - World War II, Letters in the National Archives.
Tags: 1943, Add new tag, army, L. J. Weil, MArines, mascot, Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt, ROTC, Special Forces Green Beret, Weil, World War II
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 ]
Congress is back in town this week, and a new crop of Representives is on Capitol Hill. If you follow politics, or live in Washington, DC (and therefore hear about politics every time you turn on the news), you know that the end of 2010 meant ducks. Lame ones.
This happens when Congress has to reconvene after the November elections. Not every member has been reelected, but they have to return and finish the business at hand. As you can imagine, this does not bring out the best in people who are packing up and looking for new jobs.
How did these lame ducks get hatched? Blame the Constitution.
A member of the House of Representatives serves a two-year term that starts January 3rd in an odd-numbered year (2007, 2009, 2011).
But regular sessions of Congress begin on January 3rd in even number years (2006, 2008, 2010).
So when a current Congress meets between Election Day in November during an even year (like 2010) and the January start date of the new Congress (2011), there are now members who did not win reelection and will not return for the upcoming odd year (2011). These members create a “lame duck” Congress.
In the cartoon above, lame and injured ducks (representing Democrats who lost in the 1914 election) hobble to the White House looking for jobs in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration. It was drawn by Clifford Berryman, … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on January 6, 2011, under Myth or History, News and Events.
Tags: 20th Amendment, Add new tag, Clifford Berryman, Congress, Election Day, House, lame duck, Senate, Uncle Sam