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Tag: Medal of Freedom

National Archives documents on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Some of our documents made a special trip across Constitution Avenue today, traveling from the National Archives Building to our neighbor on the Mall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tonight, the museum is hosting a dinner for this year’s sixteen recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Over the past fifty years, the award has been given to 500 people. President Kennedy re-established the Medal of Freedom as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, eighteen years after it was first established by President Truman.

Although President Kennedy was killed just two weeks before the planned award ceremony, President Johnson went forward with the first award ceremony. Marian Anderson was among the first 31 recipients. He also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to President Kennedy.

You can watch tonight’s ceremony live online.

Karen Hibbitt, registrar at the National Archives, and conservator Lauren Varga accompanied the documents and prepared the display, and they will remain there during the event to ensure the safety of the documents.

The featured documents are Executive Order 11085 and a set of design drawings. On February 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 11085, establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army, then created design drawings for the medal for President and Mrs. Kennedy to review. … [ Read all ]

March on Washington: A. Philip Randolph

This coming Sunday is the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial on the National Mall. It’s also the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, when King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the assembled thousands.

As I looked at the program from the day and then at some group photographs, I started to wonder about the other men who were part of the events. I picked a name from the group—A. Philip Randolph—and searched our Online Public Access engine. I quickly realized I knew nothing of a man who had been active in civil rights and labor for a long time before August 28, 1963.

Mary Graves Reyneau painted Randolph’s portrait as part of a series called “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin,” commissioned by the Harmon Foundation. The original 22 portraits were exhibited at the Smithsonian and later around the country. The depiction of Randolph was displayed in the company of portraits of Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall, and W.E.B. DuBois two decades before the March on Washington.

Randolph was an influential man who had organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925. The Pullman Company began to negotiate with the unionized porters in 1935, but it was not until 1937 that a contract was reached. Randolph was used to hard work and to waiting for results—but he was also skilled at organizing and rallying.

In 1946, Randolph … [ Read all ]