Archives Experience Newsletter - June 8, 2021
Reading this Email is Not Enough
On Thursday of this week, I will interview Civil Rights legend Fred Grey – lawyer to Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King, among others. In preparation for the program, I’ve read his biography and watched many of his interviews online. I’m extremely excited to hear him share the first-person accounts of those days and the courage they forged.
(Register here so you don’t miss the program!)
The Civil Rights Movement used petitions, media coverage, lawsuits, sit-ins, rides, walks, and boycotts. It took both individual and collective efforts on a local and national scale to make a dent toward progress. Next week,
Made By Us a coalition of history and civics organizations led in part by the National Archives Foundation, will launch an effort to inspire and motivate young people (and all generations) to take a hard look at the state of our nation and ask themselves: how, when, and where can I add my voice? This is where the inaugural
Civic Season comes in.
Launching on Flag Day (June 14) and running through July 4th, the Civic Season aspires to mobilize us all to connect with our past, take action in the present, and shape the future through activities and events in our neighborhoods, cities, towns, and social spaces.
This time of year, we reflect on the moment when a new generation boldly articulated the values of a new nation: freedom, equality, justice, rights, and opportunity. Juneteenth reminds us that people in America have fought over hundreds of years to make those values a reality —and we still have work ahead of us. I encourage you to use the link below to dig through the hundreds of activities, programs, and resources that match your historical passions and civic interests. No gesture is too small, and no action is too bold.
What will you do as part of this
inaugural Civic Season?
National Archives Foundation
Why Civic Season?
As a result of the current social and political climate, as well
as their lived experience, Young Millennials and Gen Z are
already an impressively engaged demographic. As the keeper of
our nation’s founding documents and historical records, the
National Archives Foundation is invested in fostering that civic
participation by relating the stories of our nation’s past to
its present. Throughout
we’ll be participating in interactive activities, engaging
events, and big-picture conversations on social media to use our
country’s past to foster an investment in its future.
people have always had a leading voice in our country. Many of
the Founding Fathers were under 35 – even twentysomethings when
they signed the Declaration of Independence and broke away from
hundreds of years of monarchy to chart their own course toward
democracy. Thomas Jefferson penned his famous words “life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” at 33; Alexander Hamilton
served as Washington’s right-hand man at 21; James Monroe, who
became our fifth President, was 18!
Civic Season is a
celebration of young people’s participation in our democracy,
but it is also a call to do more. Our Founding Fathers dreamed
of a “more perfect union,” and 200-plus years later, it still
needs some work. Thankfully, their legacy of young people
stepping up and speaking out
Interested in joining us this Civic Season?
Sign up here!
Other video version
The Big Ideas
The “big ideas” of independence, sovereignty, and patriotism
will help guide us through Civic Season, not as a condemnation
of America’s imperfections, but as a recognition of the
opportunity to widen our lens. Just as our Founding Fathers
sought independence, so too did enslaved people, who now
celebrate their Independence Day on June 19th (Juneteenth), the
General Order 3, which was the Federal
Government’s fulfillment of the terms
of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The issue of sovereignty – or
that citizens must consent to being ruled – was a radical notion
in 1776. Less radical was “who” counted as a citizen. In the
Revolutionary Era, it was white, land-owning males, but the
citizenry has grown as we’ve granted
welcomed new immigrants
as citizens. But just as we’ve expanded citizenship, we’ve also
fallen short. The upcoming anniversary of the Indian
Reorganization Act on June 18 serves as a reminder that as our
sovereignty as a nation grew, that of indigenous peoples and
tribal nations was
and almost eliminated.
Which brings us to patriotism: is it
defined as praise of our nation despite its imperfections or as
criticism with an eye toward achieving a more perfect union?
This Civic Season, we’re defining patriotism by the actions we
take – whether that’s taking time to
has long valued our mission of preserving our nation’s history,
and digitization has helped us reduce the barriers to access for
anyone who wants to study that history for themselves. This
Civic Season, we’re meeting young people where they are to
empower them to use our nation’s past to create its future.
The Power of Civics
“Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” That had been the
mantra of 18-to-21-year-olds across the nation who were being
drafted to serve in the U.S. military overseas without having
any say in electing the leaders who sent them there. In response
to World War II, FDR lowered the draft age to 18, but the
minimum voting age set by most states was 21.
As the Vietnam War
raged on, discontent grew within younger Americans. Youth were
already engaged politically, whether within the Civil Rights
movement, women’s liberation, or the
growing protests against the
Vietnam War. Their cause transcended the political spectrum, racial
identity, and gender, and in late April of 1970, over 2,000
youth activists lobbied Congress for their right to vote. In
March 1971, the 26th amendment was officially introduced and
passed on the House and Senate floors, and states began to
ratify the amendment within hours, achieving a two-thirds
majority on July 1.
The legacy of the 26th lives on. Youth voter
turnout has had consequential effects, as it did in the 2008
Presidential election, and Millennials are poised to soon become
the largest voting block. On June 22nd, we’re exploring the
the 26th amendment
and its impact on civic engagement, especially for young women,
today. And if you’re really wondering where to start on your
civic engagement journey, look no further than our
Summer Civics Series, where we’ll show you how
to use our vast Archives catalogue
to reconstruct the past and reshape the future.
Civic Superpower Quiz
Everyone has their own ways to engage in civic action. Maybe
it’s volunteering at a voter registration event, running for a
position in student government, or writing an email to your
Senator about a bill you support. Whatever your Civic Superpower
is, it’s valuable and needed. Find out more
BINGO! You’re Civically Engaged!
There’s so many ways to use your talents to get involved in
Civic Season, and our bingo card will help you keep track.
Here’s something fun: play before AND after Civic Season ends.
How many squares did you add between Juneteenth and Independence
Day? Challenge yourself and others.