The Legacy of the NEH

By Danielle Jones ’18

On March 16th, 2017, the Trump Administration released the first draft of their proposed 2018 Congressional budget. Many people were focused on the massive cuts to the EPA, but another troubling cut that the original budget proposed was the 12% cuts to the Interior Departments. Even more worrying for those of us in the Humanities, the budget also called for the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. After the government’s hiring freeze, a cut to programs like the NEH was the last thing that museums and historical sites wanted to hear.

The NEH was founded in 1965, and lauds itself as one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. The grants given by the NEH typically go to museums, archives, colleges, public television and radio stations, libraries, and to individual scholars. Some famous NEH programs include Ken Burns’ The Civil War and the “Save Our American Treasures” program by the National Museum of African American History and Culture which collects and preserves artifacts from African American communities, including a set of child’s slave cuffs and Harriet Tubman’s bible. Museums as large as the Smithsonian receive NEH grants, as well as small museums and historical sites. The NEH also provides grants and awards to educators in order to strengthen education in schools and colleges, to facilitate research and scholarship, and to strengthen the humanities as a whole. Virtually every state and 6 territories have been touched by NEH grants. The money given helps further American education and to foster education and enlightened discussions about the humanities in the U.S.

The proposed budget cuts would have had lasting impacts across the humanities field. Many of the institutions who receive NEH funding would not be able to support all the programs they run without the NEH, and there are many other institutions who would cease to function without NEH and other federal funding. Thus, the potential loss of funds caused a massive outcry by many in the humanities. The loss of NEH funding could lead to a significant decrease in the available jobs in humanities industry, and many academics would not be able to continue to support original research necessary to furthering their respective fields.

On May 1st, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill to fund the federal government for the current fiscal year ending September 30, 2017. This bill provided some hope for those in the Humanities; the bill calls for $150 million each for both the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. This is a $2 million increase from the fiscal 2016 year. While this increase is of great benefit to the Endowments, it does not necessarily mean that the 2018 budget is going to keep the Endowments at the same level. As students, historians, and people who love the humanities, we must continue to work to show people the importance of programs like the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Sources:

About the NEH.” National Endowment for the Humanities. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Farrington, Dana. “Read President Trump’s Budget Blueprint.” NPR. March 16, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Tableau Public. March 20, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Cascone, Sarah. “Despite Trump, NEA Lives to See Another Day as Congress Finalizes 2017 Budget.” Artnet News. May 01, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

Kaplan, Thomas, and Matt Flegenheimer. “Bipartisan Agreement Reached to Fund Government Through September.” New York Times. April 30, 2017. Accessed May 02, 2017.

U.S. Cong. House. Committee on Appropriations. Comprehensive Government Funding Bill. By Rodney Frelinghuysen. 115 Cong. 244.

Confederate Memory

By Olivia Ortman ’19

This year as a CWI Fellow, I’ve been doing a lot of research and thinking on Civil War memory, specifically that of Confederate memory. When doing this work, the question at the back of my mind is always: How should monuments, symbols, and other examples of Confederate memory be handled? This is a very difficult question, so up until now, I’ve left it alone, knowing that there would come a time in the future that I would sit down and wrestle with my conflicting opinions on the matter. A couple days ago, the Civil War Era Studies Department here at Gettysburg College sent out an email sharing the news that New Orleans had begun removing Confederate monuments and several other cities were thinking of doing the same. After reading this, I knew the time had come for me, and all of you, to join the discussion about Confederate Memory.

The first question that I ask myself when thinking about how to handle Confederate Memory is what the people want. Confederate monuments have a variety of owners. In some cases, the monuments are owned by a private organization or individual who put them up, in other cases, the city, state, or federal government may own them. The same goes for the land they are on. If owned by individuals or private groups, it’s their choice what happens. When the monument or land belongs to the local government, as is the case with the New Orleans monuments, it should be the people’s choice what happens. Although the city council of New Orleans voted 6 to 1 to remove several monuments, the residents didn’t get the chance to vote. For many issues, allowing the council to take care of matters on their own is fine; the people elected them because they trusted them to make the right decisions. In matters that generate a lot of public concern, though, residents are usually asked to vote. We vote on taxes, why not on monuments? If the majority of city residents agree with the removal of a Confederate symbol or monument, remove it and say no more. If the majority of residents are against the action, however, it doesn’t seem right to disrespect their wishes. The popular vote in New Orleans may have agreed with the removal of the monuments, but without that formal vote, we can’t know for sure.

Continue reading “Confederate Memory”

Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and the Civil War: A CWI Fellow’s Response

By Ryan Bilger ’19

In an interview for Sirius XM Radio released this Monday, May 1, President Donald Trump made some intriguing comments regarding the reasons why the American Civil War took place. He started by describing his beliefs on how 7th President Andrew Jackson would have influenced the events leading up to the Civil War:

I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. And he was really angry that he saw what was happening, with regard to the Civil War. He said, there’s no reason for this.

Donald_Trump_official_portrait
President Donald Trump. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading “Donald Trump, Andrew Jackson, and the Civil War: A CWI Fellow’s Response”

Dusting Off the Old Heroes of the Republic: The Newest Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.

By Matt LaRoche ‘17

When I decided to attend the Women’s March on Washington this past January, I tried desperately to keep the Civil War out of my mind. I didn’t want to court disaster. Whatever their politics, anyone who knows anything about the Civil War can hear the familiar wails of a nation groaning under the weight of paralyzing political factionalism, deep sectional divides, and a potential constitutional crisis—in the works long before the Drumpf presidency—surrounding the proper limit and application of executive power in our democracy, amongst other threats. But I just couldn’t allow myself to envision the worst. It made me physically sick to have to wonder, honestly, whether my home was on the verge of throwing away the sacrifices of millions of selfless patriots over the years simply because we could no longer see our neighbors, our family members, as human. Because we had so lost faith in the “unfinished work” that we would surrender liberty for safety, virtue for ambition, and love for power. That we would think ourselves so vulnerable, so small, that we would betray our friends and forsake the world. That we would stop being leaders because the job was no longer easy.

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View of Women’s March from Grant Memorial. Photo by the author.

As I stepped out of the terminal at Union Station, into the grey and misting morning, I couldn’t escape these thoughts. Yes, I was thrilled, even energized as I fell into the crowd and somehow we found an irrepressible rhythm that drove us towards the Mall. But I was still scared. This was no battle, but I was bearing witness to a struggle for the nation’s future, and that was too close for comfort for me. Continue reading “Dusting Off the Old Heroes of the Republic: The Newest Civil Rights Movement in Washington, D.C.”

Let’s Talk About Secession

By Danielle Jones ‘18

Texit and Calexit—catchy names that have been trending lately over states deciding they don’t want to be a part of the United States. Secession movements are not unique to today. The most famous act of secession involved the eleven states that would form the Confederate States of America, but even at the founding of the United States there were rumors that some states were going to secede and the country would become four different regional confederacies.

The legality of secession has been debated since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. When the United States was still under the Articles of Confederation, there were rumors that the United States would break up into multiple confederacies that could govern with more sovereignty than Congress could under the Articles. The move from the Articles to the Constitution was hotly debated. Some, like Judge St. George Tucker in 1803, argued that abandoning the Articles was the same as seceding from them. Therefore, according to Tucker, there was legal precedent for future secession.

“Secession Exploded,” an anti-secession political cartoon from a Unionist newspaper published in 1861. Via Library of Congress.
“Secession Exploded,” an anti-secession political cartoon from a Unionist newspaper published in 1861. Via Library of Congress.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Secession”

No, Trump’s Election Does Not “Feel Like the Fall of Reconstruction”

By Jeffrey Lauck ’18

On January 20, 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts administered the presidential oath of office to Donald Drumpf, making him the 45th President of the United States. Many Americans have variously perceived his election as “unprecedented,” “revolutionary,” and “terrifying.” Some historians found the turn of events leading up to and including Drumpf’s election to be rather familiar. In November, the Huffington Post ran a story titled “It Feels Like the Fall of Reconstruction.” In it, University of Connecticut professor Manisha Sinha outlined the parallels between 1877 and 2016. On Facebook, I have seen many of my liberal friends weigh in with similar analyses. This evaluation is misguided. To compare the rise of Drumpf to the end of Reconstruction is to undermine the chaos, violence, and widespread racial ambivalence that defined the Gilded Age.

donald-trump
Then-candidate Donald Drumpf campaigning in Fountain Hills, Arizona in 2016. Via Wikimedia Commons.

In a broad scope, it is not difficult to see some similarities. By and large, the end of Reconstruction was brought about by rising indifference among white liberal Republicans toward continuing Reconstruction. Support for federal occupation of the South was growing stale ten years after Appomattox, and economic woes in 1873 distracted many business-minded Republicans from continuing to advocate for black civil rights in the South. In the election of Drumpf, perhaps we can see a parallel in many white voters’ ambivalence to candidate Drumpf’s pejorative statements on women, people of color, Muslims, and queer Americans as well as his prospective policies that would harm these groups. The majority of Drumpf voters likely did not vote for Drumpf because of these statements or policies, but they were at least indifferent enough toward them to vote for him anyway. Continue reading “No, Trump’s Election Does Not “Feel Like the Fall of Reconstruction””

Star Wars, Syria, and Our Civil War: Bearing Witness to Atrocity and Suffering

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_theatrical_poster
Courtesy of Wookipedia.

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Bear with me on this one. We will eventually come to how the American Civil War ties into this conversation, but I have a lot of other things to talk about first. And I should also warn:  minor spoilers ahead.

I was moved to silence after seeing Rogue One, the first spin-off film of the Star Wars franchise. Even now, tears creep into my eyes as I remember how it shook me. I had heard reviews claiming that it was the first Star Wars movie to put the cost of war at the center of the narrative. I hadn’t expected it to be so true.

Continue reading “Star Wars, Syria, and Our Civil War: Bearing Witness to Atrocity and Suffering”

A Tale of Two Universities: Harvard and Georgetown Accept Their Ties to Slavery

By Alex Andrioli ‘18

The Washington Ideas Forum, a Washington D.C. hot-ticket event, reconvened for its eighth year on September 28th and 29th, 2016. Leaders in politics, policy, race and justice, education, science and technology, and even food met to share ideas and have meaningful conversations at the event hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute. From Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Secretary of State John Kerry to author Chimamanda Adichie and chef and founder of Momofuku, David Chang, the best and the brightest were all in attendance.

On the second day of the forum, the national correspondent of The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates, conversed with the presidents of two elite universities: John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University and Drew Gilpin Faust of Harvard University. The three talked about the roles of the universities in acknowledging and reconciling with their histories of slavery and discrimination.

The Washington Ideas Forum, Washington D.C. Photo taken by the author, September 29, 2016.
The Washington Ideas Forum, Washington D.C. Photo taken by the author, September 29, 2016.

Continue reading “A Tale of Two Universities: Harvard and Georgetown Accept Their Ties to Slavery”

Changemakers: Harpers Ferry History Prompts Social Awareness

This post is part of a series featuring behind-the-scenes dispatches from our Pohanka Interns on the front lines of history this summer as interpreters, archivists, and preservationists. See here for the introduction to the series.

By Annika Jensen ’18

The day after the mass shooting at the Orlando gay nightclub Pulse was a Monday, and I was thoroughly unable to process my emotions or ponder the repercussions of the massacre upon walking into work that morning. I oscillated between bewilderment, grief, hopelessness, anger. My heart was tender. I chose silence as a defense mechanism.

In the midst of a traumatic year of violence, a year of being roused early many mornings by my phone buzzing with news updates about another terrorist attack or another shooting, this event had affected me the most profoundly, striking me full of emotion and affecting my day-to-day life more so than any other tragedy in the previous months. I fumbled through the motions of getting dressed, making my coffee, brushing my teeth in a state of overwhelm. I carried an emptiness when I led the day’s student group, about twenty campers exploring nearby parks and battlefields, across the B&O Railroad Bridge into lower town, and while my supervisor was getting them oriented with park rules and guidelines I felt I was in mourning.

Photo by the author
Photo by the author

Continue reading “Changemakers: Harpers Ferry History Prompts Social Awareness”

Harriet takes the $20: Black Bodies, Historical Precedence, and Political Implications

By Megan McNish ’16

If you have been watching the news at all lately, you’ve probably seen that Harriet Tubman will be placed on the front of the $20 bill, while former President Andrew Jackson will be moved to the back of the bill. Immediately there emerged an outpouring of support for the proposition. However, in the week that has followed, others have questioned the meaning that will arise out of an African American woman and former slave being placed on American currency. Some have argued that it is not a fitting legacy for a woman who fought against oppression and the system, which American currency represents, while others have suggested that this change is long overdue. A few politicians have argued that this change is no more than an attempt at political correctness. I disagree. There are a number of very good reasons why Harriet Tubman deserves this honor which has been reserved largely for white men up to this point.

H Tubman
Photograph by H. B. Lindsley ca. 1860-1875. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Harriet Ross and was enslaved on the eastern shore of Maryland. Tubman suffered a traumatic head injury as a child, a result of a blow to the head she received from an overseer. For the rest of her life, Tubman suffered from epileptic seizures. Not one to be put down by her circumstances, she escaped from slavery in 1849, but returned to the South numerous times to free others who were enslaved. In addition to her work with the Underground Railroad, Tubman became a militant abolitionist. She was supposed to be at John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry, but was ill and could not participate. During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse and spy. She helped orchestrate and execute a raid on South Carolina plantations known as the Combahee River Raid. Throughout her life she worked towards equality for women and African Americans. She spent much of the later part of her life fighting for a pension for her service to the United States Army. In 1897, she was rewarded twenty dollars per month. Continue reading “Harriet takes the $20: Black Bodies, Historical Precedence, and Political Implications”