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The NYS American Revolution 250th Commission: A Big Step Forward

Co-sponsors New York State Senator Shelley Mayer and Assemblymember Carrie Woerner

The New York State American Revolution 250th Commission took a big step forward on June 8, 2021. The New York State Assembly and Senate unanimously passed A4742B/S04410-C the “New York State Two Hundred Fiftieth Commemoration Act.” The bill now goes to the Governor for signing along with a slew of other such bills typically passed in the waning days of the session. Based on precedent, one should not expect a signing until possibly December with some negotiating carrying forward into January. That is what happened with Four Hundred Year Commission for 1619. It finally was signed into law in January 2020 with some changes particularly to the makeup of the Commission before becoming a COVID casualty.

The bill passed this year is a vast improvement over the original bill proposed last session that I wrote about in a previous blog. By tracing the iterations of the bill one can observe how the sausage is made. My understanding is that there were some difficult behind the scene discussions over the specific terms of the bill as will be seen below. It still remains to be seen

1 What bill the Governor will actually sign?
2 Who will be appointed to the Commission?
3 What funding will be provided to implement the vision of the legislation?

In this blog I wish to focus on the Commission, the Indian Nations, and the State Historian through the multiple versions in the 2021 session.

COMMISSION

The original Commission in 2020 consisted of 31 individuals, an unwieldy number. In the first iteration in 2021, the following were removed from the Commission:

1. New York State Military Museum Director
2. Saratoga National Historical Park Superintendent
3. Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership Director
4. Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor Director
5. Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area Director
6. Niagara Falls National Heritage Area Director
7. Association of Public Historians of New York President
8. Preservation League of New York State Chairperson
9. Humanities New York Board member.

Instead, a new section was inserted whereby the Commission would “coordinate and consult” with these organization as well as other similar organizations in the “development, planning, promotion, and coordination” of 250th activities. This change creates a more manageable Commission while opening it up to contacting a wider range of organizations.

The new Commission now was to consist to twenty people. Since the reduction of 31 by 9 leaves 22, there appeared to have been a typo. I did point this out to the bill sponsors. While in one version the correction was made to show 22, this discrepancy became moot. The number of members then was reduced to 13, an even more manageable number. Although the number remained at 13 in the final version, the composition of the 13 changed drastically.

To try to track the Commission changes is challenging. It reflects the behind-the-scene wrangling that occurred. One significant change involved the Indian Nations. In the 2020 bill:

a duly designated representative from [each of?] the Cayuga Nation, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Onondaga Indian Nation, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the Tonawanda Band of Seneca, and the Tuscarora Nation;

were part of the 31-member commission. Then in 2021, they were moved to non-voting members of the Commission. At that point the ten regional economic development councils and the commissioner of Empire State Development totally dominated the 13-memebr Commission.

Subsequently the Indian Nations were removed from their observer status on the Commission as well and a new section was added:

The commission shall coordinate and consult with, on a government to government basis, with the Cayuga Nation, the Oneida Indian Nation, the Onondaga Indian Nation, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, the Seneca Nation of Indians, the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the Tonawanda Band of Seneca, and the Tuscarora Nation.

Presumably the Commission also will consult on a government-to-government basis with England, Canada, France, Germany, and Poland too.

The State Historian also was removed from observer status to becoming a voting member of the Commission.

Another big change was in dropping a representative from each of the ten regional economic development counsels from the Commission. The head of Empire State Development is on the Commission so there was no need for each of regions to be represented individually. But with the Indian Nations, REDCs, and various organizations removed from the Commission, who is left after the Commission Chair, Department of Education, Empire State Development and the State Historian?

three members shall be appointed by the governor, two members shall be appointed by the temporary [she is still temporary?] president of the senate, two members shall be appointed by the speaker of the assembly, one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the senate and one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the assembly, to the extent practicable, these appointments shall include a representative from each of the ten regional economic development councils;

Don’t worry. I am not going to go through the configurations that led to this clause. Now at least the appointees and with professional background from the 2020 bill makes sense. Originally, an appointee had to be a “local government historian, academic historian, museum professional, social studies teacher or professor, tourism professional, archeologist, anthropologist, or [have] other expertise in the field of New York state history and/or historic preservation. Now the qualifications for being an appointee was revised to include “professor,” a positive change. This section about qualifications made no sense to me either without “professor” in the 2020 bill or with “professor” in the 2021 bill. Since all the members were heads of various organizations, there seemed to be no rational purpose in specifying the professional background of the appointees. Now all those organizations have been removed and replaced by political appointees.

There is an opportunity here at least for the Commission to be a history-based one rather than a political-bureaucratic based one. With the 400-Year Commission, the members were selected but the press event never materialized due to COVID so their names were never made public to the best of my knowledge. Those people might provide a precedent for gauging the membership of this new commission. If you know you there were, I would appreciate learning their names.

It is quite possible that as with the 400-Year Commission, the Governor will request more control over the Commission before signing the bill into law. The number on the Commission and the number appointed by the Governor may both change. Undoubtedly there will be more wrangling to come and we may not know the results for months.

COMMISSION ACTIVITIES

What is the Commission actually supposed to do? Here are some relevant clauses about is activities.

1. coordinating forums across the state to seek ideas from the public on the commemoration including how New Yorkers, Americans and those from other countries may celebrate such anniversary;
2. coordinating with civic, educational and heritage organizations to develop public interest and involvement in the planning and development of the commemoration;
3. promoting and encouraging educational outreach programs using media and technology including electronic communications to achieve national and international impact;
4. coordinating the planning of commemorative events for all interested communities throughout the state;
5. inviting other interested states and nations to participate in programs and events for the commemoration;
6. coordinating and promoting the holding of meetings, conferences, seminars and conventions in interested communities using such anniversary as an attraction and theme;
7. seeking funding from private individuals, foundations and corporations to support capital improvements, preservation and conservation needs associated with events and sites commemorating such anniversary;
8. coordinating and cooperating with state entities and tourist promotion agencies, as defined in article five-A of the economic development law;
9. coordinating and cooperating with local, state and federal entities including those relating to heritage area promotion and any federal commission created to participate in planning and development of such anniversary observance.

And if that was not enough, the legislation this year added:

coordinating and promoting the holding of community engagement and educational events in interested communities using such anniversary as an attraction and theme.

Putting the raising of funds aside, who is supposed to do all this promoting and coordinating throughout the state? If you answered the Office of State History, you would be right. “Office” is a euphemism for one person, the State Historian, Devin Lander. The bulk of these activities mean the work he has do to do all by himself.

THE STATE HISTORIAN: WHO IS GOING TO DO THE WORK?

Can the State Historian do what the bill lists as the activities of the Commission? Consider the example of Erika Sanger, Executive Director of the Museum Association of New York (MANY). She just announced a series of fall programs in the ten regions of the state used by MANY. Combined they entail twenty days of travel. Add a spring program and the total is forty days or 8 work-weeks. Now add a statewide conference and the time required to plan all these events and significant portion of the work-year already is locked up.

But regional meetings are not sufficient. The regions are big and attendance is skewed towards where in a region a meeting is held. For example in the Hudson Valley, the lovely Wallace Center in Hyde Park, Dutchess County frequently is used. It is neither the demographic nor geographic center of the region as I first pointed out in the regional Path through History kickoff meeting held January 25, 2013. The attendance reflects that location (I speak from experience). The Mid-Hudson Valley REDC ameliorates that shortcoming by scheduling county meetings for the funding process.

There are 62 counties in the state. One person from Albany cannot hold 62 meetings multiple times per year. However, the division of the state into the ten regions as multiple statewide organizations do provides a solution. The Office of the State Historian needs ten regional assistants. These ten individuals for the American Revolution 250th could be based in the regional offices of the NYSOPRHP or REDC. They would hold county meetings, regional meetings, as well participate in state meetings.

That still leaves a lot do.

The Commission will be consulting with other states such as Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and from Rhode Island to Virginia.

The Commission will be consulting with other countries as noted above.

The Commission will be consulting with AMC. When it four-season show “Turn” on the spy ring in New York aired, Virginia advertised on every show to come to Virginia and see where the Revolution occurred. New York did not advertise at all. We should not make the same mistake when the 250th anniversary of the events depicted in the show occurs. This time we should be ready with advertisements and events so viewers can visit the actually sites of the events they just watched on TV.

Let’s keep in mind that while the 250th is going on there will be other history anniversaries as well

2024 Bicentennial of the return of Lafayette
2024 Centennial of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation
2024 Centennial of the Indian Citizenship Act
2025 Bicentennial of Erie Canal
2027 Bicentennial of New York’s “Juneteenth,” 38 years before Texas.

According to the bill’s mission statement:

The legislature further finds that the 250th anniversary and the years proceeding it offers great opportunity to educate and inspire the people of the state to increase recognition and appreciation of New York’s role in the American Revolution and subsequent civil rights struggles as well as the complex nature of the state and nation’s history with regards to 8 the ideals of liberty and freedom. Therefore, it is the intention of the legislature to establish a commission for planning and development for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution in New York state to take place in coordination with the national celebration.

If we are serious about fulfilling that mission, then we need to be serious about the staff and funding required and not let it become another Amistad Commission (The New York State Amistad Commission: Do Black Lives Matter?, January 18, 2016).

AMERICAN REVOLUTION 250th

The countdown for the 250th anniversary of the birth of the country continues. The work may have been suspended this past year but the clock did not stop ticking. As we transition from online to in-person meetings, the effort will shift as well. Online meetings probably will continue. They provide a logistically routine and cheap way to reach out on a statewide, regional, and even national level to large numbers of people involved in the 250th. Still there is a place for the in-person meeting especially for local events. And let’s not forget the social aspect of birthday parties either.

As we come out of hibernation, it is time for me at least to return to writing about what is going on in American history aided by the fact that I just turned in my manuscript May 31 for The Exodus: An Egyptian Story (Oxbow). So here are some thoughts about the American Revolution.

State Historical Administrators Meeting (SHAM)
The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)

A major topic at the SHAM meeting was the preparations for the 250th anniversary in 2026. According to AASLH, one-third of the participants reported that their states have formed a 250th anniversary commission or officially designated another such entity to lead planning. That brings to a total of fourteen states have commissions. Action is being taken in Nebraska, North Dakota, and Texas. It would be interesting to correlate the states involved in the 250th and gaining the right to vote with the states which have changed their voting laws restricting those same rights. The AASLH reports that in Pennsylvania, the America250PA Commission is working with the national commission’s staff to develop a template that all states can use for strategic planning toward 2026 that will be synchronized with America250.

AASLH is developing another example of national guidance for what will be a decentralized, state-focused Semiquincentennial on the subject of historical themes. These themes will provide guidance to state and local history organizations. AASLH staff presented an overview of the themes at SHAM. It seeks feedback from many of the attendees on the draft which it produced with the help of teams of scholars, public historians, and other history practitioners. AASLH will publish the themes as part of a larger 250th planning guide on July 1, 2021, only a few weeks away. The National Endowment for the Humanities assisted in this effort by providing funding.

One final note concerns plans for regional collaborations among the states. Many events are not necessarily confined to current political boundaries. This kind of partnership will continue to be an important agenda item for SHAM for the rest of the year.

DEBATING MARY BETH NORTON, Former President AHA

On February 4, 2021, Fraunces Tavern honored Mary Beth Norton, former president of the American Historical Association, for her book 1774: The Long Year of Revolution. The book covered the sixteen months from the Boston Tea Party to the Battles of Lexington and Concord that changed the course of American history. In her talk, Mary Beth explored the “long year” of the American Revolution, a time when once-loyal colonists began their discordant “discussions,” leading to the acceptance of the inevitability of a war against the British Empire.

During her online talk, I noticed that she used one word repeatedly that I was not expecting. The word was “debate” which I subsequently did mention to her. She constantly referred to the ongoing debates that the Americans were having about the issues of the day. American families, communities, and colonies were divided on what action to take. As we know, there were Loyalists and there were Patriots.

Listening to her talk about these debates gave me an idea for a 250th involving topics. What specifically were these debates about in 1771, 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775 leading up to the Declaration of Independence in 1776? What were the positions as the colonists approached separation? If you live in a community from colonial times you may be able to determine from church sermons, letters, and broadsides what the people in your community were arguing about.

Perhaps some of the national history organizations could assist in developing guidelines and sources for each year to debate these topics. Now as we are living through our third Civil War, it might be useful to learn what are communities said and why during our first Civil War. It certainly would be a way to connect the American Revolution with the present and to involve high school students as they debate the very issues that consumed their communities 250 years ago.

SIGNS, STATUES, AND MEMORIALS

What are the signs, statues, cemeteries, and memorials related to the American Revolution in your community? Is there a database listing of them? Do they appear on your website and on the tourist websites? People will stop and take selfies at all of the above, but they need guidance to know that they are there.

It would be beneficial if the state maintained/coordinated the creation of such a database if one does not already exist.

As people scour their own communities in the search for such remembrances, it is an excellent opportunity to determine:

1. If any need repair or restoration work
2. If any need to be updated particularly signs as new information may be available and vocabulary has changed
3. If any new ones are needed to include people, places, or events which may have been overlooked in the past.

Potentially such an endeavor could be a big, so communities might want to collaborate in seeking funding to accomplish it in a standardized manner.

SPEAKERS BUREAU AND CALENDAR

One final thought is the benefit of creating a speakers bureau. Again this would work best on a state level. The purpose here would be to be identify potential speakers in a searchable database based on the people, places, events, and topics related to the American Revolution. Why should individual historical societies have to reinvent the wheel? Perhaps at some point there could even be funding so such speakers could speak locally at historical societies/libraries/museums.

There is an advantage to have some speakers present online. Over the past year many of us have probably heard lectures online hosted by an organization far from us geographically. Once we return to in-person meetings, there still will be speakers and topics who can draw from a larger audience than a single historical society can draw. It may be worthwhile to have periodic talks done online then.

Isn’t there a way to have a speaker in-person as well as online? I am not exactly sure what the technology would be? Perhaps just having a laptop set a few feet in front of the standing speaker for online viewing. With slides it would be a little more complicated. Oh well, I am sure smarter minds than mine can figure something out.

History Legislation Update

New York State Capitol (New York Senate)

The State budget has been passed. There is light at the end of tunnel. The world is opening up. What better time to look at history-related legislation and see what has happened during the lost year! Below lower are various bills identified by their Senate number and a description. The major new one concerns the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution. Some of the older ones relate to anniversaries from 1619 to Juneteenth.

S9031 American Revolution 250th Commission

This proposed bill has been in the Senate Rules Committee since October 5, 2020. Creating this Commission is a prerequisite for federal funding which will be funneled through state commissions. The bill provides detailed definition of terms and the specifications of 31 people identified by function or position for the commission. The people include

– Commissioner of the Commission
– Commissioner of the Department of Education
– President of Empire State Development plus representatives of the ten regions
– Director of New York State Military Museums
– 5 directors of heritage parks and areas
– 9 representatives of various Indian Nations
– Humanities New York
– Association of Public Historians of New York State
– Preservation League of New York State.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

– conduct historical, economic, and cultural studies
– conduct education programs
– make recommendations on heritage organizations, historical signs, and monuments
– protect and promote the heritage resources.

There will be federal funding and funding from the State as well one presumes. The expiration date for the Commission is December 31, 2033. That date means the last major event probably will be Evacuation Day, November 25, 2033 in lower Manhattan. Just when events in Massachusetts will be wrapping up, events in New York will be taking off. These include the Battle of Saratoga, the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, Benedict Arnold, Rochambeau, and Evacuation Day. New York will be observing the 250th for years to come. What should we be doing now for the pre-July 4, 1776 250th?

S6948 400 Years African-American History Commission

As the 250th Commission heads towards likely approval at some [because it is required to obtain federal funding], it is worth considering the status of the 400 Year commission for 1619. That proposed commission has been the subject of several blogs already (Slavery Quadricentennial: The 400 Years of African-American History Commission). It was finally signed into law on February 16, 2020, about six months after the August 2019 anniversary. Apparently the now-15 Commissioners had been chosen and it was only a question of arranging the photo-op to announce the launching. We all remember what happened in March 2020. Suffice it to say the 400 Year Commission is on hiatus. The original expiry date was pushed back from June 1, 2020 to June 1, 2021 which is in a few weeks. So far there is no indication of pushing back the date again. I do have a copy of the Memorandum of Support from sponsor Senator Comrie from February 2020 when I stopped by his office in Albany. That document was marked up to shift the expiry date to June 1 2022. However the New York State Senate website still has June 1 this year so time is running out.

S8598 Juneteenth Public Holiday

This bill was signed into law last July 22, 2020, shortly after the events in Tulsa. So next month will be the first observance of it in the State as a public holiday. Whether it is a public holiday like New Year’s Day, Christmas, and Thanksgiving or like Flag Day or Lincoln’s Birthday, and George Washington’s Birthday remains to be seen. This date refers to an event in Texas and not New York.

SXXXX 1827 Bicentennial 1827 Commission

Speaking of New York, the bill I initiated and helped write for the bicentennial in 2027 of the end of slavery in New York State never made it to the Senate (1827 Freedom Bicentennial Commission Covid-19 Casualty… This Year). It appears to have been a casualty of the Covid pandemic and has vanished from sight.

It should be noted that there are other upcoming anniversaries with state-wide implications including the return of Lafayette (1824) and the Indian Citizenship Act (1924) worthy of remembrance and celebration. These are in addition the bicentennial of the building of the Erie Canal (ongoing, culminating in 2025) and the centennial of the New York State Council of Parks created by legislation adopted on April 18, 1924.

S3951 Civic Education Fund

This bill was vetoed on December 13, 2019. I respectfully submit that given the insurrection on January 6, 2021, there is a desperate need for civics education in the state and the country. There is an urgent need to revisit the issue of civics in the school curriculum.

By coincidence, as I am writing this blog, I received an email from the Preservation League of New York State containing Preservation updates on State legislation. I include two bills below.

Support for Legislation Relating to Operations and Preservation of the National Historic Landmark New York State Canal System Memorandum of Support A.7044 (Buttenschon)/S.5958 (May) 

We commend the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation for their ongoing restoration, maintenance, and stewardship of our National Historic Landmark canal system. This bill supports their work while providing important consistency for those who use the canal, whether for recreation, tourism, or commercial purposes.

Read our support letter here.

Support to Make Mandatory Quarterly Meetings of the Canal Recreationway Commission
Memorandum of Support A.7045 (Buttenschon)/S.5959 (May)

The Canal Recreationway Commission currently meets subject to the call of the chairperson. By setting a regular quarterly meeting schedule, this bill will establish consistency and give the Commission the tools to focus on important future planning efforts to support our Canal System and chart a new path forward, supporting our National Historic Landmark Canal System’s ability to leverage the economic benefits of tourism, recreation, and commercial use now and into the future.

Read our support letter here.

This brief review of some history-related legislation shows that the time of the advocacy hibernation is over and the history community needs to think about how to organize for legislative action and what action it would like to see.

Deep State versus the Trump State: Will We Celebrate the 250th Anniversary of America?

New York Times Magazine, November 10, 2019, by Paul Sahre

The 250th anniversary of the birth of this country is only a few years away. At this point, preparations are slight but there is an awareness that the time to start planning is now. If back in 1776, you had asked the Founding Fathers about the United States of America one day celebrating its 250th birthday, they would have looked at you as if you were nuts. They knew the country was an experiment. They knew the country was a work in progress. They knew the country might not last. When it reached its fiftieth birthday on the same day as the deaths of the second and third presidents and co-Declaration writers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson truly it was a sign from Divine Providence that this country was blessed.

Now we live in a time when it is reasonable to ask if we will survive another few years…or if so in what form.  Back in July, I wrote a blog about the “formal” commencement of the third civil war in the United States (July 14, 2019 = April 12, 1861 II: The Third Civil War Is Engaged). Previously I had written a blog about an earlier proposed date for the “formal” launching of the war (America’s Third Civil War: Kava-Noes versus Kava-Yeses). Occasionally, I wrote updates on the state of the ongoing culture wars since then.

Recently the intensity of the conflict appears to have escalated. While some news outlets would employ the war metaphor from time to time, such usage was not typical or routine. The declaration of war against Congressional subpoenas was one major exception. Now there have has been two rather dramatic expressions of the war terminology.  The Sunday Magazine of The New York Times on November 10 (print edition) has an image of a White House defended by tanks. The caption below reads: “What happens when the White House responds to Congress’s impeaching the president by declaring war on Congress?” Inside the magazine was an image I did not see online. It depicts a battle being fought between the White House and the Capital replete with images of Civil War charging cavalry, World War I trenches, propeller planes and paratroops, and more tanks. To the right of the image is the phrase “Impeachment Wars.”

The second example is the December issue of The Atlantic. The cover has a hand partially in red and partially in blue. The text reads “How to Stop a Civil War.”

The related articles in these two publications focus mainly on the culture wars. How are the Democrats doing in the impeachment and what are the stakes for the Republicans given the demographic changes which the country has and is continuing to experience? I certainly do not mean to diminish the importance of the culture wars that are dividing the country. My periodic blogs about Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples’ Day address that topic. I will continue to do so in forthcoming blogs.

But there is a second war that is being overlooked. This is the one between the Deep State and the Trump State. The confrontation is related to the culture wars but it is not one.  It is not about abortion, immigration or the politically correct – hot button culture war issues. Instead it is about the Trump State versus the Deep State, between people who are loyal to the person who happens to be president versus people who are loyal to the Constitution. I daresay given this individual president something like it was inevitable once he was elected. How come he was elected is a separate issue. It is important to recognize that the issues raised in this war are relevant no matter which party claims the presidency.

The recent events in the impeachment hearings have made clear what should have been obvious but which has received minimal attention compared to the culture wars.  In the Trump State, Article II means he can do whatever he wants. In the Trump State, it means he cannot be investigated yet alone indicted for anything he does including murdering someone in broad daylight in front of security cameras and a live TV audience on Fox & Friends. In the Trump State, Congress has no oversight power unless the President grants it. Is this really what Trumpicans want? Is this really what conservatives want? Is the President really above the law immune to any Constitutional restraints?

What we are learning now is that Deep State refers to the career professionals who place loyalty to the country and the oath they took to the Constitution to serve it first.  These people have disobeyed the Presidential order not to comply with the Congressional subpoenas or invitations at great risk to themselves. These people have been viciously attacked. The seventh-grade smart-aleck dumb-aleck cannot control himself and launched an attack on one career professional even while she was testifying.  He continues to lash out as the next witness prepares to testify. Would Trumpicans have enjoyed it more if he had intimidated the career diplomat into crying? He has no sense of decency. Do they?

Meanwhile, the seventh-grade smart-aleck dumb-aleck has surrounded himself with people who are equally vicious. His Mean Girl Press Secretary has been especially nasty and belittling. Duped-by-Russia Hannity erupts in tirades night after night about the psychotic individuals who are attempting to bring down the duly-elected President. Little Donee Dimwit exclaims that his father was elected to drain the swamp of precisely these people, the career bureaucrats who dedicate their lives to serving their country. Only someone living in an alternate reality could claim that the professional career employees are the swamp and the cabinet created by Swampbuilder represent the people we need in the military and the State Department.

By contrast the people who have obeyed the command of this President not to testify have been his political appointees. Anonymous has informed us that Little Donee Waney has meetings with his political appointees only and in secure quarters without any career officials loyal to the Constitution present.

Last December I wrote a blog about this exact situation: MAD DOG BANISHED TO THE CORNFIELDS: TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE BECOMES REAL. The episode was It’s a Good Life first televised in 1961. In that story there is a six year old, not 13 like our President, who has extraordinary powers. He makes life a living hell for those around him subject to his whims and fancies. I will cut to chase and quote one portion of the blog relevant to the impeachment hearings today.

In that episode, one person, who is not anonymous, has had enough. He erupts:

You monster you, you dirty little monster…. maybe some man in this room; some Republican with guts, somebody who is so sick to death of living in this kind of a place and willing to take a chance will sneak up behind you and lay something heavy across your skull and end this once and for all.
Somebody sneak up behind him. Somebody end this now….
Will somebody take a lamp or a bottle or something and end this.

The printed word cannot capture the intensity of the anguish of this emotionally wrought person who can no longer endure the reign of the child. Aunt Amy tentatively reaches for a fireplace poker but refrains. She is past her prime. No one has the courage to act. The child banishes him to the cornfield. The adults are horrified at what he had done but no one does anything,

Then Thomas Friedman said, “I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.” But Friedman’s words were as flat as his world and everyone at Fox just laughed. There are no Republicans left.

The Trump State consists of the Flying Monkeys who have taken an oath of loyalty to the Wicked Witch of the White House. These are the people with first-hand knowledge who have declined to participate in the impeachment hearings. These ae the people who could become profiles in courage and do what did not happen in that Twilight Zone episode. Any day any one of these people could chose to tell the truth:

Vice President who does not defend his own staff
Acting Chief of Staff
Secretary of State who does not defend his own staff
Attorney General
National Security Chief

but none of them will. Even his personal lawyer who said in the end he would be the hero has the opportunity to save the country and really be the hero. We are still waiting.

The one possible exception is the millionaire donor who simply wanted a cushy job and the opportunity to show off that the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES calls him directly. His memory keeps improving and he is likely to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth now that he has seen what has happened to Roger Stone and heard what the other witnesses have said. Will that be enough?

Perhaps the straw that breaks the camel’s back has been placed. Perhaps the verbal assault on the former Ambassador to the Ukraine was the insult that forces the Trumpicans to face the truth. Perhaps at last the seventh-grade smart-aleck dumb aleck has crossed the line such that even Trumpicans are disgusted and are willing to become Republicans. Perhaps now they see that

Without their support he’s nothing.
The evil remains within him.
Look how ugly he really is.
Look at him after Kentucky and Louisiana and don’t be afraid.

It is time. It is time for the party of Lincoln to take back its party from ugliness.  It is time for non-elite heterosexual white males who love their country and are in pain to catch on that they are being slicked, conned, hustled, flim-flammed, bamboozled and lied to by a staggeringly ignorant narcissist who just as easily would rip them off at his phony university for their desire to live the American Dream as he would for their vote. It is time to realize that our weeny President is submissive to alpha males who are our enemies while abandoning our allies and attacking patriots who are loyal to the Constitution. It is time for loyalty to the Constitution to trump loyalty to the president if we want to celebrate the 250th anniversary of this country as a constitutional republic. Now is the time for first-hand witnesses to rise to the occasion. Now is the time for Trumpicans to regain their decency. Don’t hold your breath.

Community Outreach: Lessons from the Organization of American History (OAH) Conference

Fake History (Mother Goose and Grim)

This blog represents another in a series reporting on the sessions at history-related conferences. Sometimes I am able to attend such conferences, sometimes I am not. The OAH is one I did not attend. Unfortunately the online program does not include abstracts as the National Council on Public History (see conference report). It would be nice if all conference abstracts were posted online.

The first blog on the OAH conference addressed content sessions. The second blog below encompasses outreach and education by history organizations. Once again, these sessions provide an example of what is being discussed and may offer suggestions for sessions at local, state, and regional conferences.

Many of these content sessions are on early American history. That may be a reflection of my own personal interests. If you are interested in reviewing all the sessions at the conference go to
https://www.oah.org/meetings-events/oah19/

WHAT CAN COLLEGES DO?

Here is a session that should be possible at any statewide or regional history conference. After all, where aren’t there two and four-year colleges? Note the mention of engaging the local community in the description. One item not mentioned but critical to the success of these endeavors is the state curriculum: are local and state history an integral part of the school curriculum or an option at the discretion of the individual teacher? If the former is true, then that would necessitate changes to teacher certification programs and therefore to the classes offered at colleges. If the latter is true then the odds are we have the current situation where teachers have to go outside the norm to bring local and state history into the classroom or to be able to visit the related sites outside the classroom.

Outside Support: Creating and Maintaining Community Outreach and Engagement Endorsed by the Western History Association

This roundtable discussion examines how both two and four-year institutions of higher learning embraced their local communities through program partnerships, shared course objectives, and assignment of specific programming. The participants recognized the importance of including their local communities in history education and provide practical hands-on learning experiences for their students. The discussion’s goal is to share their insight into the ways each of them have incorporated local communities into their student learning objectives, as well as learning from audience members their own best practices and community involvement experiences.

Chair and Panelist: Marc Dluger, Northern Virginia Community College
Panelists:

Katherine Macica, Loyola University Chicago
Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana
Adam Shprintzen, Marywood University
Kacey Young, Northern Virginia Community College

WHAT CAN SCHOLARS DO?

This session addresses the issue of the risks involved when scholars and the public interact at history sites and museums. One of the presenters was Marla Miller, the president of the NCPH. She was one of the co-authors of the NPS-commissioned study on “Imperiled Promise” which documented the shortcomings in current NPS practices in history. That report was the subject of a series of blogs here. In the current political atmosphere, the odds on the NPS implementing any of the recommendations are non-existent. My impression from the brief description of this session is that great care needs to be taken when engaging the local community in a discussion that risks changing the accepted narrative.

Collaborations and Contestations: At Intersections of Early American and Public History
Solicited by the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR)

This roundtable explores the importance of various forms and sites of public history to scholarship on early North America, and vice versa, particularly around the theme of inclusivity. Marla Miller explores what museums and historic sites are doing to operate with a more inclusive lens, while Tiya Miles reflects on the collaborative research process that shaped her recent book, and the community conversations following its publication. Barbara Clark Smith considers the potential downsides of public practice, pondering contemporary misrepresentations of the past by groups not structurally marginalized. And Brian Murphy weighs the impulse to trace through-lines and illuminate current conditions against the imperative to explore the past on its own terms.

Chair: Serena Zabin, Carleton College
Panelists:

Barbara Clark Smith, National Museum of American History
Tiya Miles, University of Michigan
Marla Miller, UMass Amherst
Brian Murphy, Baruch College, City University of New York

CULTURAL VALUES AND HISTORY MUSEUMS

These sessions relate to current issues in the presentation of history to the public. Given the cultural wars, what should history museums do when they are connected to events and people who are the source of contention in the world today? One such topic in this quadricentennial year of slavery in what became the United States is freedom. It did not apply to everyone here.

Fluidity in Freedom: African Americans in Colonial and Revolutionary America
No pre-registration required

A crucial feature of the American character—the notion of freedom—is so entrenched in the cultural and national consciousness that the evolution of this notion is often taken for granted. Students of history miss a foundational understanding of the American value of freedom when they are unaware of how it has been transformed, defined and expanded by agents of history. Join education staff from the National Museum of African American History and Culture to investigate the fluidity of freedom in the colonial and revolutionary periods through the material culture and legal history of people of African descent who utilized the courts to claim the freedom they believed was due to them. Using the stories of individuals such as Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), Quock Walker and Rachel Findlay, we will explore the arguments for universal freedom, the development of race as a factor in freedom and the role of the legal system in expanding the concept of freedom. Designed for educators of grades 3–12, this workshop will enhance content knowledge, provide resources for the classroom and open a discussion about the nature of freedom and race in the fledgling United States.

Chair and Presenter: Candra Flanagan, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.

Another sensitive subject is religion. The following session does not address the issue of religion in general but in specific case studies. In this regard, it would be beneficial to have an abstract from Randall Miller as his presentation on religion at national sites also would apply to state and local sites and museums.

 “Faith in Public”: Interpreting Religion at American History Museums and Historic Sites

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History (S-USIH), and the Western History Association

Chair: Laura Chmielewski, State University of New York at Purchase
Commentator: Edward Linenthal, Indiana University

Overcoming Barriers to Interpreting Religion Barbara Franco, Independent scholar

Interpreting “America’s Pastor”: Evangelicalism, Public Commemoration, and the Many Meanings of Billy Graham Devin Manzullo-Thomas, Messiah College

The Gods Are Not All around Us: Finding Religion at National Public History Sites and Museums Randall Miller, Saint Joseph’s University

TRAINING HISTORY STAFF IN HISTORY

One of the critical points in the Imperiled Promises study previously mentioned was the training or lack thereof for the history staff at the NPS. In my blogs, I always noted that the same considerations also applied to state people at state historic sites. A simple example is attendance – are these people even able to attend history conferences in their own state or region? This session focuses on the training of government historians as historians. People are most familiar with the government staff who directly meets with the public, that is, gives the tours. What about the people behind the scenes who prepare the material on which the tours and exhibits are based? What training do they receive? How do they stay current with the history field? Are there even historians on staff in state organizations?

HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT HISTORY STAFF
NPS 101: Historical Research and Writing for the National Park Service
Solicited by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration

Historians from the National Park Service and historians with experience preparing studies for NPS will introduce the major types of NPS historical studies and explore how these documents are both similar to, and different from, each other and from historical monographs and articles intended for scholarly journals. Panelists will discuss project planning, methodologies, audience, expectations, the review process, and the characteristics of a strong and useful study. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the cooperative agreement between the OAH and NPS, this session will illuminate the challenges and rewards of collaborations between historians within and outside the National Park Service to produce studies that contribute to the preservation and interpretation of historic buildings and landscapes.

Chair: Susan Ferentinos, Independent historian
Panelists:

Evelyn Causey, Independent historian
Douglas Sheflin, Colorado State University
Ron Cockrell, National Park Service, Midwest Regional Office
Bethany Serafine, National Park Service, Northeast Region

THE 250TH BIRTHDAY OF AN EXPERIMENT

The founders of this country regarded it as an experiment. They knew what had happened to the Greek city–states and to the Roman Republic. They were aware of the great size of the proposed United States America: it dwarfed any previous such attempt at a republic. They also were aware of the great diversity of peoples who comprised the country, a diversity of a magnitude far beyond that of the ancient city-state republics. What is easy to forget is that they genuinely did not know if the experiment would work. For John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of their handiwork, the continued existence of the United States was miracle enough. Imagine how they would have felt if they knew the country could reach its 250th birthday still intact. At this moment efforts are underway to begin to prepare for the 250th anniversary. We already had and are having events from the 1760s that reached 250 years. In 2020, additional events will come of that age. The 250th provides an opportunity for the United States to become a country of We the People where all its citizens remember and celebrate the birth of their country. Will that happen?

THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 250TH
Museum of the American Revolution
The American Revolution: Getting the Best New Scholarship to the Public and Guided Tour Solicited by the OAH Committee on Teaching

The past decade has seen a flourishing of historical scholarship related to the era of the American Revolution. This panel examines how to share this new scholarship with the public through museums and high school classrooms. The participants—professors, museum professionals, and teachers—will discuss the challenges and opportunities of incorporating cutting-edge scholarship. The panel will take place at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and will incorporate a tour of the museum which will enhance the conversation. Advance registration and a fee are required for the tour and session.

Chair: Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University–Camden Panelists:

Zara Anishanslin, University of Delaware
Kathleen DuVal, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Philip Mead, Museum of the American Revolution
Thomas McGuire, Teacher, Malvern Prepatory School
Jessica Roney, Temple University

This concludes the review of the recent NCPH and OAH conferences. Again, it would be useful if conferences would include the abstracts of the presentations on the conference website. It would also be useful if there could conference reports on sessions of interest. I refer here not simply to the hot-button topics but to the sessions related to k-12 education, history museums, and history training that are important to the people who teach in our schools and colleges and who work at our museums be they privately owned or public. Perhaps some of these conference sessions can be replicated at the state and/or regional level.