Celebrating Black History Month

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List of African-American employees of the National Archives, November 23, 1942. (Records of the National Archives)

Today Pieces of History kicks off a month-long celebration of Black History. 

The National Archives has millions of pages of records that document African American history—from blacks serving in the Revolutionary War to the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.

But behind those stories are the stories of the many African American employees of the National Archives who have worked tirelessly over the years to make those and many more records available to the American public.

Like many government agencies, the National Archives has a checkered past when it comes to hiring and promoting African Americans.

In the early years of the 1930s and 1940s, black employees faced extreme prejudices and were mostly limited to more manual and unskilled behind the scene jobs.

NABuilding-PoynerLeonD

Leon D. Poyner’s ID card near the beginning of his career at the National Archives, February 3, 1941. (National Archives Identifier 12091409)

Very few African Americans held professional archivist positions, and those who were able to get those jobs were not promoted at the same pace as their white colleagues.

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Dr. Harold Pinkett, speaking at Conference on Research in the Administration of Public Policy, 1970.  (National Archives Identifier 23856319)

The Civil Rights era saw black employees begin to make greater gains in securing higher profile positions. Harold Pinkett was promoted to head a branch at the National Archives, and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library selected J. C. James as the first black director of a Presidential library.

Over the course of Black History Month, the National Archives History Office will be exploring the stories of Harold Pinkett, Leon Poyner, James Walker, and other African Americans who have worked at the National Archives.

We will offer insight into their experiences working at the National Archives, and their important contributions to the history of our agency.

Visit Prologue to read more articles by National Archives staff and others who explore the depth and breadth of material in the National Archives related to African American history.

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The National Archives: A Pioneer in Microfilm Online Exhibit

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Photograph of Microfilm Camera at the National Archives, January 15, 1937. (National Archives Identifier 12168566)

Photograph of Microfilm Camera at the National Archives, January 15, 1937. (National Archives Identifier 12168566)

Since 1936, the National Archives has microfilmed documents in order to preserve frequently used originals and to allow researchers to study materials without making a potentially long and expensive trip to Washington, DC.

The National Archives History Office has created a new exhibit about the National Archives’ leadership in the effort to promote the use of microfilm to preserve valuable original documents.

At the outbreak of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called for an increase in the use of microfilm to protect the United States’ most treasured documents from the dangers of war.

Similarly, Vernon D. Tate, Chief of the Division of Photographic Reproduction and Research for the National Archives, argued that microfilm was “in importance with any military weapon thus far disclosed.”

As a result of this encouragement, the National Archives microfilmed hundreds of thousands of documents by the end of World War II.

Photograph of Microfilm, Veterans’ Bureau Index, January 20, 1939. (National Archives Identifier 12168672)

Since 1945, the National Archives encouraged other archives both within the United States and abroad to use microfilm for research and preservation.

For instance, in 1966, the Extraordinary Congress of the International Council on Archives (ICA) was held in Washington, DC, where microfilm was discussed on an international stage.

There, Morris Rieger, an archivist at the National Archives suggested that the ICA should create what would become the Microphotography Committee. In a survey, the committee concluded that out of 56 countries, all but 10 were prepared to microfilm documents.

As other nations were just beginning to microfilm, the National Archives had already made great strides toward preservation with this process in the previous 30 years.

Then, as a result of the popularity of the 1977 ABC miniseries Roots, a new wave of researchers swept through the Archives. Roots explored the story of Kunta Kinte, author Alex Haley’s ancestor who had been sold into slavery. America watched as Haley traced his familial roots.

The opening of new Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives, June 24, 1971. (National Archives Identifier23856415)

The opening of new Microfilm Reading Room at the National Archives, June 24, 1971. (National Archives Identifier 23856415)

Soon, new researchers came to the National Archives to study their own family’s genealogy. For the first time, there were lines to use microfilm readers.

While researchers continued to take advantage of available microfilm, by the late 1990s, only a minuscule fraction of the National Archives’ holdings had been microfilmed. As a result, large-scale digitization projects have been established, and today the National Archives is digitizing more and more of its holdings.

The National Archives holds over 4,000 microfilm publications, which are available in Washington, DC, or by ordering copies online.

To learn more about the National Archives’ leading role in microfilm, explore the new online exhibit The National Archives: A Pioneer in Microfilm in Google Cultural Institute.

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Featured document: Tuskegee Airmen

“Members of the 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Forces, famous all-Negro outfit, who are rapidly making themselves feared by enemy pilots, pose for a picture at the Anzio beachhead. In the foreground, head bared, is 1st Lt. Andrew Lane.” (NARA ID 520624)

At the start of World War II, African Americans serving in the Armed Forces were segregated into all-black units. They were also limited in the types of positions they could hold—blacks in the U.S. military did not fly planes.

On April 3, 1939, Congress passed legislation expanding the Army Air Corps (the precursor to today’s Air Force). Among the act’s provisions was the creation of training programs located at historically black colleges to prepare African Americans for Air Corps service.

On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced they were creating the 99th Pursuit Squadron. (Fighter planes were then called “pursuit planes,” hence the name Pursuit Squadron; during the war the term was replaced with “fighter squadron.”)

What made the 99th Pursuit Squadron different was that it was to be an all-black flying unit trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. War Department officials selected Tuskegee because it had an airfield and civilian pilot training program.

“Tuskegee Airmen” became the nickname for the World War II Army Air Forces units that were made up predominantly of African American pilots and maintenance crews.

Address of welcome to Army Air Corps cadets in front of Booker T. Washington Monument on the grounds of Tuskegee Institute, August 1941. (National Archives Identifier 531132)

From 1941 to 1946, nearly 1,000 African Americans completed training at the Tuskegee Institute as pilots, and many went on to serve with distinction during the war.

Despite their service to the country, the U.S. military remained segregated until 1948, when President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order desegregating the U.S. military.

On March 29, 2007, the Tuskegee Airmen received the Congressional Gold Medal. During the ceremony, President George W. Bush acknowledged the men for their contribution to winning the war and saluted them for their service to the nation.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Tuskegee Airmen, a special exhibit will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from January 7, 2016, through March 2, 2016.

Pilots of a U.S. Army Air Forces Fighter Squadron, ca. February 1944. (National Archives Identifier 535763)

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Protecting the Bill of Rights: the Mosler Vault

Progress on installing the vault in the Exhibition Hall, November 7, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167771)

Progress on installing the vault in the Exhibition Hall, November 7, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167771)

In April 1952 Congress ordered the Library of Congress to transfer the Declaration of Independence and Constitution to the National Archives.

The two documents were to go on public display in the National Archives Building along with the Bill of Rights, which was already at the Archives.

While the Archives exhibition hall had been specifically designed to display the two documents, it did not have a safe place to store the documents when they weren’t on exhibit.

The National Archives contracted with the Mosler Safe Company to construct a vault beneath the exhibition hall’s floor. At that time, an estimated 70 percent of all banks in the United States used Mosler safes and vaults.

Archives officials announced they would unveil the documents on Bill of Rights day that year.

This did not give the company much time.

Mosler Safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167779)

Mosler Safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167779)

Working under the looming deadline, Mosler engineers, technicians, and machinists worked around the clock to design and build a vault worthy of protecting the nation’s most valuable documents.

The company constructed the vault in Hamilton, Ohio, then brought it to Washington, DC, for installation.

The vault was made of steel and reinforced concrete. It was located about 20 feet beneath the floor of the exhibition hall. Built during the Cold War era, the vault was designed to be fireproof, shockproof, and bombproof.

During visiting hours, the three documents were displayed in then state-of-the art cases.

Every night, at the press of a button, the elevator gently lowered the documents in their cases through the floor into a 50-ton safe where they sat overnight.

The next morning, the elevator would again raise the documents for public viewing.

The two center pages of the Constitution, which were not exhibited, were also stored in the vault.

Vice President Nixon, Senator Bricker, and Mr. Mosler view the scale model of the shrine and safe, June 29, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 3493223)

Vice President Nixon, Senator Bricker, and Mr. Mosler view the scale model of the shrine and safe, June 29, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 3493223)

During the dedication ceremony on December 15, 1952, President Harry Truman said America’s treasured documents are “as safe from destruction as anything that the wit of modern man could devise.”

The Mosler Company also gave the National Archives a scale model of the vault, which was on display in the National Archives for many years.

The National Archives no longer uses the Mosler vault to protect the Charters of Freedom. The major renovation of the National Archives Building in the early 2000s included a complete overhaul of the security system safeguarding the Charters.

Read more about the transfer of the documents in the blog post “Carting the Charters.”

Mosler safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167793)

Mosler safe being constructed, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12167793)

 

Caption for Charters of Freedom display of the scale model. (National Archives Identifier 12170126)

Caption for Charters of Freedom display of the scale model. (National Archives Identifier 12170126)

Posted in - Cold War, - Constitution, - Declaration of Independence, National Archives History, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

On Exhibit: Abolishing Slavery

On December 6, 1865, with Georgia’s ratification of the 13th Amendment, slavery throughout the United States became illegal.

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Preserving Slavery, March 2, 1861. (National Archives Identifier 4688370)

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States Preserving Slavery, March 2, 1861. (National Archives Identifier 4688370)

Just a few years earlier, in 1861, Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin proposed—and both Houses of Congress passed—a constitutional amendment that would have done the exact opposite.

Corwin’s amendment read, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

This would have been the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Before it could be ratified, however, 11 Southern states seceded to form the Confederacy.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, effective January 1, 1863, was a step toward abolishing slavery. But it didn’t apply to the loyal border states, and it exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under control of the Union Army.

On January 31, 1865, Congress passed another slavery-related amendment.

Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the United States Constitution Abolishing Slavery, January 31, 1865. (National Archives Identifier 1408764)

Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery, January 31, 1865. (National Archives Identifier 1408764)

This one read, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

To make it part of the Constitution, three-fourths of all the states—including those still in rebellion—had to ratify the amendment.

Within a month, 18 of the 27 needed states quickly ratified the amendment, although after the Lincoln’s assassination in April the ratification process stalled.

To force the issue, President Andrew Johnson instituted a requirement that any state that wanted readmission to the union first needed to outlaw slavery. This prompted enough states to act, and on December 6, 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the amendment.

On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William Seward certified the amendment, proclaiming the 13th Amendment had been adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution as of December 6, 1865.

In celebration of the anniversary of the enactment of the 13th Amendment, California’s Certificate of Ratification will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from December 3, 2015, through January 6, 2016.

Fun Fact: Both President James Buchanan and President Abraham Lincoln signed their respective joint resolutions proposing the amendments. Their signatures, however, were unnecessary as the Supreme Court had ruled in Hollingsworth v. Virginia (1798) that the President has no formal role in the constitutional amendment process.

William H. Seward, Secretary of State ca. 1860-1865. (National Archives Identifier 528347)

William H. Seward, Secretary of State ca. 1860-1865. (National Archives Identifier 528347)

Posted in - Civil War, - Constitution, Abraham Lincoln, News and Events, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Indian New Deal”

Today’s post from Eric Rhodes, intern in the National Archives History Office, highlights the National Archives’ Native American holdings in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with two unidentified Native American Men, c.1935. (National Archives Identifier 519179)

John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with two unidentified Native American men, ca.1935. (National Archives Identifier 519179)

In the 1930s, in an effort to remedy the hardships Native Americans had faced under U.S. policy, Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) John Collier took advantage of the reformist spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency to change the course of U.S.-American Indian relations.

American Indian policy in the late 1800s undermined native culture by forcing Native Americans to assimilate into the European-American lifestyle.

Native children were taken away from their families at a young age to off-reservation Indian boarding schools.

Moreover, the Dawes Act of 1887 instituted the practice of allotment—the division of tribal land into personal tracts—which destabilized native communal life.

Collier, a prominent activist for Native American rights, was well aware of the negative effects these policies had on Native American communities.

Albuquerque Indian School in 1885, Relocated from Duranes to Albuquerque in 1881 (National Archives Identifier 292865)

Albuquerque Indian School in 1885, relocated from Duranes to Albuquerque in 1881. (National Archives Identifier 292865)

In 1923 Collier became the Secretary of the Indian Defense Association (IDA). During his tenure at the IDA, the Institute for Government Research released the Meriam Report, which detailed the poor condition of tribal economies and the utter destitution in the Indian country.

According to the report, the average national per capita income in 1920 was $1,350 while the average Native American made only $100 a year.

The Meriam Report implicated U.S. Indian policy in helping to create such poverty.

Collier set out to reform Indian policy after President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him to serve as the head of the BIA in 1933. The Collier era saw a dramatic change in the direction of U.S. American Indian policy, and that change would be initiated by the “Indian New Deal.”

Instead of the goal of immediate and total assimilation, Collier set about to preserve what remained of American Indian culture. As an initiative of the Indian New Deal, he hired anthropologists to document Indian languages and ways of life.

Memo from John Collier to Senator Thomas O’Malley Regarding Justifications for Senate Bill 2571 (what would become the Johnson-O’Malley Act), February 26, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 559808)

Memo from John Collier to Senator Thomas O’Malley regarding justifications for Senate Bill 2571 (what would become the Johnson-O’Malley Act), February 26, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 559808)

Indian Agencies hired photographers to capture Native American culture.

Collier also helped establish the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, tasked with promoting and preserving Native American material culture.

The Arts and Craft Board established a system of authenticating products and enacting marketing strategies which led to some economic development for certain Native American groups during the country’s most severe depression.

The Indian New Deal also forwarded the cause of Native American education. Curricular committees serving Native Americans began to incorporate the languages and customs that had been documented by Government-funded anthropologists in their newly bilingual syllabi.

While the Government continued to mandate that Native Americans attend Federal schools, it subsidized the creation of 100 community day schools on tribal lands.

The Johnson-O’Malley Act of 1934, which Collier helped to steer through Congress, offered states Federal dollars to support their Native American education, health care, and agricultural assistance programs.

Navajo CCC workers build a diversion, Navajo Nation, Tuba City, Arizona. The Civilian Conservation Corps’ incorporation of Native American laborers provided much needed relief during the Depression. (Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives)

Navajo CCC workers build a diversion, Tuba City, Arizona. (Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Archives)

To ease unemployment, thousands of Native Americans were employed under a separate division of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This division, which was popularly abbreviated as the CCC-ID, allowed Native Americans to work on public works projects on their own reservations.

The Indian New Deal’s premiere piece of legislation was the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA).

The IRA abolished the allotment program detailed in the Dawes Act and made funds available to Native American groups for the purchase of lost tribal lands. It required that Indians receive preferential treatment when applying to BIA jobs on the reservation. Finally, the IRA called for a referendum on home rule and self-governance, asking tribes to vote to establish new tribal councils.

While it was not a wholesale success, the Indian New Deal was integral in changing U.S. Government policies toward American Indians.

Visit our website to learn more about the historical records relating to Native Americans in National Archives’ holdings.

The first page of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. (National Archives Identifier 7873515)

The first page of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, June 18, 1934. (National Archives Identifier 7873515)

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The Montgomery Bus Boycott

In commemoration of the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, today’s post comes from Sarah Basilion, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Rosa Parks, 1995. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

Rosa Parks, 1965. (Records of the United States Information Agency, National Archives)

Sixty years ago, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black woman, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, public bus.

On December 1, 1955, Parks, a seamstress and secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was taking the bus home after a long day of work.

The white section of the bus had filled, so the driver asked Parks to give up her seat in the designated black section of the bus to accommodate a white passenger.

She refused to move.

When it became apparent after several minutes of argument that Parks would not relent, the bus driver called the police. Parks was arrested for being in violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code, which upheld a policy of racial segregation on public buses.

Parks was not the first person to engage in this act of civil disobedience.

Diagram of the bus showing where Rosa Parks was seated. (National Archives Identifier 596069)

Diagram of the bus showing where Rosa Parks was seated. (National Archives Identifier 596069)

Earlier that year, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She was arrested, but local civil rights leaders were concerned that she was too young and poor to be a sympathetic plaintiff to challenge segregation.

Parks—a middle-class, well-respected civil rights activist—was the ideal candidate.

Just a few days after Parks’s arrest, activists announced plans for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The boycott, which officially began December 5, 1955, did not support just Parks but countless other African Americans who had been arrested for the same reason.

E. D. Nixon, president of the local NAACP chapter, called for all African-American citizens to boycott the public bus system to protest the segregation policy. Nixon and his supporters vowed to abstain from riding Montgomery public buses until the policy was abolished.

Photograph of an empty bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  (National Archives Identifier 7452358)

Photograph of an empty bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. (National Archives Identifier 7452358)

Instead of buses, African Americans took taxis driven by black drivers who had lowered their fares in support of the boycott, walked, cycled, drove private cars, and even rode mules or drove in horse-drawn carriages to get around. African-American citizens made up a full three-quarters of regular bus riders, causing the boycott to have a strong economic impact on the public transportation system and on the city of Montgomery as a whole.

The boycott was proving to be a successful means of protest.

The city of Montgomery tried multiple tactics to subvert the efforts of boycotters. They instituted regulations for cab fares that prevented black cab drivers from offering lower fares to support boycotters. The city also pressured car insurance companies to revoke or refuse insurance to black car owners so they could not use their private vehicles for transportation in lieu of taking the bus.

Police report from Rosa Parks’s arrest, December 1, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 596074)

Police report from Rosa Parks’s arrest, December 1, 1955. (National Archives Identifier 596074)

Montgomery’s efforts were futile as the local black community, with the support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., churches—and citizens around the nation—were determined to continue with the boycott until their demand for racially integrated buses was met.

The boycott lasted from December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested, to December 20, 1956, when Browder v. Gayle, a Federal ruling declaring racially segregated seating on buses to be unconstitutional, took effect.

Although it took more than a year, Rosa Parks’s refusal to give up her seat on a public bus sparked incredible change that would forever impact civil rights in the United States.

Parks continued to raise awareness for the black struggle in America and the Civil Rights movement for the rest of her life. For her efforts she was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the executive branch, and the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given by the legislative branch.

To learn more about the life of Rosa Parks, read Michael Hussey’s 2013 Pieces of History post Honoring the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

And plan your visit to the National Archives to view similar documents in our “Records of Rights” exhibit or  explore documents in our online catalog.

Copies of documents relating to Parks’s arrest submitted as evidence in the Browder v. Gayle case are held in the National Archives at Atlanta in Morrow, Georgia.

A recreation of the bus Rosa Parks rode the day of her protest. (National Archives Identifier 7718884)

A photo of a recreation of the bus Rosa Parks rode the day of her protest housed in the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee. (National Archives Identifier 7718884)

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Was Ike a secret New Dealer?

Today’s post is from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue magazine, the quarterly of the National Archives.

Was Dwight D. Eisenhower—the architect of the allied victory over the Nazis in World War II and our President during the peaceful 1950s—a secret New Dealer?

Eisenhower, elected President as a Republican in 1952, brought in with him a Republican-controlled Congress. The GOP lawmakers were eager to dismantle the social welfare programs that were started and became embedded in government during the 20 years of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s and Harry S. Truman’s presidencies.

In fact, President Eisenhower affirmed programs of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1919

 

Eisenhower’s position on FDR’s legacy is revealed in “Eisenhower, the Frontier, and the New Deal: Ike Considers America’s Frontier Gone, Embraces, Adds to FDR’s Legacy” an article in the Fall issue of Prologue magazine, the flagship publication of the National Archives.

Author Tim Rives draws much of this story from exchanges of letters between President Eisenhower and then-retired Brig. Gen. Bradford G. Chynoweth, a long-time friend.

Eisenhower had known Chynoweth since they were junior officers in Panama after World War I. “Ike” and “Chyn,” as they called each other, spent many an hour debating the state of the nation and the direction it ought to take.

Decades later, Eisenhower had moved into the White House and Chynoweth was retired and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. By then Chynoweth was a “radical Republican” and the two renewed their friendly debates by letter.

111-sc-149416 BG Chynoweth 1924 (1)

Bradford G. Chynoweth in 1924

 

Chynoweth urged his friend to go along with the conservative Republicans who then controlled Congress to and were eager to dismantle the New Deal.

“Chyn” agreed that social problems needed a new approach, but he added: “Why jump to the extreme New Deal view that the only way to find new approaches is from the Government?”

Still, Eisenhower resisted, Rives writes, and wrote his old friend: “It seems to me that no great intelligence is required in order to discern the practical necessity of establishing some kind of security for individuals in a specialized and highly industrialized age. At one time such security was provided by the existence of free land and a great mass of untouched and valuable natural resources. These are no longer to be had for the asking.”

Eisenhower, with the help of a Democratic Congress for his last six years, expanded Social Security, retained agencies created in the New Deal, started the Interstate highway system, and established federal student loans.

Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, says there was another reason: “Eisenhower embraced the reforms as a political necessity. The New Deal had won broad acceptance from the American public.” The article contains more details of the Ike-Chyn relationship.

This article is one of three written for in the issue that focus on Eisenhower on the 125th anniversary of his birth. You can read all three online on our Prologue website.

 

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Flight of a Sadako Crane

Today’s post comes from Ben Jordi, Public Affairs Specialist in Strategy and Communications, at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

Growing up, Clifton Truman Daniel never talked to his grandfather, Harry S. Truman, about his role in the war or the atomic bombings. “Our family met like any other family: on long weekends and holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. And you were always careful about showing an interest in history or Grandpa would be sure to give you a lengthy history lesson,” says Daniel of his grandfather.

The Truman Presidential Library is filled with history lessons. One such lesson revolves around the atomic bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima and three days later, on August 9th, another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. The aftermath of the bombings left nearly a quarter of a million people dead. Survivors of the bombings were called hibakusha; literally translated as “explosion-affected people.”

"Sadako Crane" donated to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library by her brother, Masahiro Sasaki. The crane is about one inch tall and made from a cellophane wrapper.

“Sadako Crane” donated to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library by her brother, Masahiro Sasaki. The crane is about one inch tall and made from a cellophane wrapper.

When Daniel’s son Wesley was 10, his social studies teacher, Rosemary Barilla, did a series of lessons centered on the children’s book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.  “I came home one night to find Wesley wearing a kimono with sushi and green tea laid out on the coffee table behind him,” recalls Daniel. “The book had appealed to him because there was no happy ending. It was realistic.”

The book tells the true story of two-year-old Sadako Sasaki, who survived the bombing of Hiroshima. Nine years after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sadako was diagnosed with radiation-induced leukemia.

As she received treatment in the hospital, Sadako followed a Japanese tradition that promised one wish to anyone who folded 1,000 origami paper cranes. Despite folding more than 1,300 tiny paper cranes and wishing for life, Sadako died on October 25, 1955.

Over the years, Daniel has met American veterans who thank him for his grandfather’s choice, a choice they believe saved thousands of American service members’ lives. He also began meeting and speaking with atomic bomb survivors. In 1994, he met Japanese exchange student Shizuka Otani, whose grandfather died in Hiroshima.

After reading a Japanese article written about Daniel, Sadako Sasaki’s brother Masahiro Sasaki called Daniel in 2005 to ask if he would be interested in working together. “I was standing in a woodland clearing in Wisconsin, talking to Masahiro through a translator about his work donating Sadako’s cranes as gestures of peace and healing. It was a little surreal,” says Daniel.

In 2010, Masahiro and Daniel finally met when Masahiro donated one of Sadako’s cranes to the 9/11 Tribute Center in New York City. “Yuji took a tiny paper crane from a plastic box and dropped it into my palm,” recounts Daniel. “He told me it was the last crane Sadako folded before she died. At that point, he and his father asked me if I would attend the memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Since then, Daniel has worked on a number of programs related to the bombings. He and his son Wesley have collected a series of first-person hibakusha stories, which will eventually be added to the Truman Library’s collection. Seedlings from trees that survived the bombings are being grown at Powell Gardens in Kansas City, to eventually be used to create a memorial garden at the Truman Library. In 2013, when Daniel and Wesley visited Masahiro Sasaki in Fukuoka, they carried a wreath of 1,000 cranes folded by children in Rosemary Barilla’s class at Jamieson Elementary in Chicago. Masahiro laid the wreath at Sadako’s final resting place.

On November 19th, Masahiro will presented one of the last origami cranes folded by Sadako to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Truman’s eldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel, and Rosemary Barilla, Wesley’s social studies teacher, attended. Sadako’s nephew, Yuji Sasaki, sang Inori (Prayer). The paper crane will become a permanent part of the Truman Library’s collection.

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On Display: The Refugee Act of 1980

The Refugee Act of 1980 is now on temporary display in the West Gallery of the National Archives Building. 

At the end of the Vietnam War, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees were admitted to the United States through Presidential action. The law at the time restricted refugee admissions, and many members of Congress wanted to establish a more regular system of immigration and resettlement.

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

In the South China Sea, crewmen of the amphibious cargo ship USS Durham (LKA-114) take Vietnamese refugees aboard a small craft. The refugees will be transferred later by mechanized landing craft (LCM) to the freighter Transcolorado., 4/3/1975. General Records of the Department of the Navy, National Archives Identifier 558518

The Refugee Act of 1980 raised the annual ceiling for refugees to 50,000, created a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies, and required annual consultation between Congress and the President. The law changed the definition of “refugee” to a person with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” a standard established by United Nations conventions and protocols. It also funded a new Office of U.S. Coordinator for Refugee Affairs and an Office of Refugee Resettlement and built on already existing public-private partnerships that helped refugees settle and adjust to life in their new country.

Page one of “A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes,” (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes, page one (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Signature page of “A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to revise the procedures for the admission of refugees, to amend the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 to establish a more uniform basis for the provision of assistance to refugees, and for other purposes,” (Public Law 96-212—The Refugee Act of 1980), approved March 17, 1980 National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Signature page of The Refugee Act of 1980, approved March 17, 1980
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government.

 

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