nation archives

Recommended reads for LGBTQ+ history buffs, and those who wish they were


Originally posted by lgbtqarchives

Discovering LGBTQ History (@lgbtqarchives)

From the desk of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration comes STONEWALL@NARA. @lgbtqarchives​ is a repository for documents reflecting the history of American LGBTQ+ people from 1778 to now. Some of it is inspiring, much of it is harrowing, all of it tells a story.


Originally posted by queersinhistory

Queer Portraits in History (@queersinhistory​)

Illustrator Michele Rosenthal (@dialmformichele​) is using her artistic talent to honor prominent figures in the LGBTQ+ community. That little circle above showcases the Mother of Blues, Ma Rainey. She recorded over 100 albums in a mere five years. In one song, Prove it On Me, she made it clear she wasn’t ashamed of who she was: “Went out last night with a crowd of my friends / They must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.” Considering it was recorded in 1928, it was a particularly bold statement. 


Originally posted by gaywrites

Gay Writes (@gaywrites​)

Staying informed in this political climate is becoming increasingly important. Let this Tumblr be a gentle guide through those rough waters. It’s a living compendium of U.S.-centric LGBTQ+ news, media, and culture. Keep yourself abreast of the latest news without ever leaving your dashboard.


Originally posted by thegranvarones

The Gran Varones (@thegranvarones​)

This legacy project uses storytelling to signal boost the voices of a community that needs it: Latino and Afro-Latino gay, queer, and trans men. It sheds light on individuals whose sexuality and ethnicity often means they are facing a disproportionate amount of scrutiny. These stories are uplifting, they’re normalizing, and they’re so needed.


365 Days of Lesbians (@365daysoflesbians​)

Come next Leap Year, they’ll have to temporarily change their name to 366 Days of Lesbians. For now, enjoy this wonderful blog that presents you with a photo and biographical write-up of one self-identifying lesbian (or activist group, as pictured above) every dang day of the year.

“What to the slave is the Fourth of July?” posed Frederick Douglass to a gathering of 500-600 abolitionists in Rochester, N.Y., in 1852. Admission to the speech was 12 cents, and the crowd at the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society was enthusiastic, voting unanimously to endorse the speech at its end. This speech would be remembered as one of the most poignant addresses by Douglass, a former slave turned statesman. Douglass gave it on July 5, refusing to celebrate the Fourth of July until all slaves were emancipated.

On July 3, 165 years later, the same question was posed on a stage in the basement of the National Archives, in Washington, D.C. This time by an actor, dressed like Frederick Douglass and wearing a wig, speaking to a 100 or so people, plus the livestream audience, in the William G. McGowan Theater. The event was put on with the help of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which hosts an annual reading of the speech, entitled The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.

‘What To The Slave Is The Fourth Of July?’ Frederick Douglass, Revisited

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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On this day in history in 1934, a federal prison opened on Alcatraz Island built to house the most dangerous prisoners and ones with a pension for escaping. The prison held notorious criminals such as gangsters Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. In 1963 the prison closed due to high expense of maintenance. Later in 1964, members of the Sioux tribe occupied Alcatraz Island, citing an 1868 treaty with the US government and Sioux allowing them to claim any unoccupied government land. The occupation grew in 1969 when hundreds of Native students, protesters, and activists from across the country gathered for the Alcatraz Occupation. It became a place where many found their voices in the shadow of the Civil Rights movement and in the face of continued injustices perpetrated on American Indians by the United States government. In 1971 federal marshals forced everyone to clear the island. Shortly after, the island became a public recreation area maintained by the National Park Service. In 2001, filmmaker James Fortier brought his documentary Alcatraz Is Not an Island to the Sundance Film Festival to shed light on this important historic event. The film features archival footage and photography as well as a series of interviews with participants of the Alcatraz Occupation. 

Film still and poster courtesy of Alcatraz Is Not an Island

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Enjoy these registered patent labels for products created for and marketed to women! From the shoe-damaging perils of driving a car to keeping your hands clean while cooking patty-shaped foods, inventors know what ladies need.

All of the labels are from Record Group 241, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. These patent labels have been digitized and will soon be available in the National Archives Catalog (archives.catalog.gov)

Most American school children learn that Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, leading us to join World War II. This week marks the 75th anniversary of Japanese-Americans being subsequently rounded up and interned as suspected enemies of the state. But there’s another tragic and untold story of American citizens who were also interned during the war. I’m a member of the Ahtna tribe of Alaska and I’ve spent the better part of 30 years uncovering and putting together fragments of a story that deserves to be told.

In June 1942, Japan invaded and occupied Kiska and Attu, the westernmost islands of Alaska’s Aleutian Chain, an archipelago of 69 islands stretching some 1,200 miles across the North Pacific Ocean toward Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. From a strategic perspective, Japan wanted to close what they perceived as America’s back door to the Far East. For thousands of years, the islands have been inhabited by a resourceful indigenous people called Aleuts. During the Russian-American Period (1733 to 1867), when Alaska was a colonial possession of Russia, Russian fur-seekers decimated Aleut populations through warfare, disease, and slavery.

Shortly after Japan’s invasion, American naval personnel arrived with orders to round up and evacuate Aleuts from the Aleutian Chain and the Pribilof Islands to internment camps almost 2,000 miles away near Juneau. Stewardship of the internment camps would fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USF&WS). Furthermore, orders included the burning of the villages to the ground, including their beloved churches, as part of a “scorched earth” policy. The Army’s stated purpose was to protect the Aleuts, who were American citizens, from the dangers of war. But one officer told astonished Aleuts that it was, as he put it, “Because ya’ll look like Japs and we wouldn’t want to shoot you.” That exchange is part of a documentary video called Aleut Evacuation.

The Other WWII American-Internment Atrocity

Photo: National Archives, General Records of the Department of the Navy

29 Days of February - 29 Photos of African Americans throughout Naval History. ‪#‎BlackHistoryMonth‬

Original Caption:
US Navy African-American Navy Cross-awarded gun crew: Jonell Copeland, Que Gant, Harold Clark Jr., James Eddie Dockery, Alonzo Alexander Swann, Eli Benjamin; circa 1945. (National Archives Photo # 80-G-334029)

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To celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, 30 new citizens from 22 nations were sworn in today as new U.S. citizens in front of the Constitution in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum. 

The ceremony included a welcome from Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero and remarks from Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Acting Director U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services James McCament.

The  Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, presided as the petitioners took the oath of citizenship. The new citizens are from Benin, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Cote D'Ivoire, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Guyana, India, Italy, Liberia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Togo, and Vietnam.

Congratulations!

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Happy Birthday, National Park Service!

One of the best things about working for the National Archives is that we get exposure to a variety of Federal agencies and their work.

On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was founded.  But, of course, the establishment of an agency or park and the management of it are two very different things!  Today we wanted to focus on the exceptional work done by our colleagues at the National Park Service and other Federal agencies that have made travel and enjoyment in the National Parks a reality over the past 101 years!

From our holdings of the National Park Service (Record Group 79), who built campgrounds, worked with concessionaires like the Fred Harvey Company and who made sure that there were “facilities” available to the every growing public; the U.S. Forest Service who preserved and managed lands before the birth of the Park Service (Record Group 95) and the Bureau of Public Roads (Record Group 30) who made it possible to leave the mule carts behind, we bring you the Grand Canyon National Park!

National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records

Today at 8 a.m., the National Archives released a group of documents (the first of several expected releases), along with 17 audio files, previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The materials released today are available online only.  Access to the original paper records will occur at a future date.

Download the files online: https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/2017-release

Highlights of this release include 17 audio files of interviews of Yuri Nosenko, a KGB officer who defected to the United States in January 1964. Nosenko claimed to have been the officer in charge of the KGB file on Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union. The interviews were conducted in January, February, and July of 1964.

Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.

Image source: Inauguration of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, January 20, 1961
Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. National Archives and Records Administration 111-SC-578830.

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When I moved to Washington, D.C., in 1962, St. Elizabeths Hospital was notorious — a rundown federal facility for the treatment of mentally ill people that was overcrowded and understaffed. Opened with idealism and hope in 1855, the hospital had ballooned from 250 patients to as many as 8,000. Its vast, rolling patch of farmland had fallen into disrepair, too, in the poorest neighborhood in the U.S. capital.

The hospital is now the subject of an exhibition at the National Building Museum; Architecture of an Asylum explores the links between architecture and mental health.

Dorothea Dix, the 19th-century reformer who fought for the hospital, would have rolled over in her grave to see what St. Elizabeths had become by the 1960s.

“She had observed the treatment of the mentally ill in jails and other kinds of alms houses [and] poor houses all over the country,” explains exhibit curator Sarah Leavitt. Dix “was really appalled by the treatment that they were getting, and she made it her life’s work to change that story.”

‘Architecture Of An Asylum’ Tracks History Of U.S. Treatment Of Mental Illness

Photos: National Archives and Records Administration/National Building (3) Museum and National Library of Medicine/National Building Museum

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Discovering the “Sussex Declaration”

Only two parchment manuscripts of the Declaration of Independence dating back to the 18th century are known in the world. One is held by the National Archives and displayed to the public in the National Archives Rotunda in Washington, DC. The other was recently discovered in Chichester, England, by two Harvard University historians: Danielle Allen, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and colleague Emily Sneff, Research Manager for the Declaration Resources Project. 

Allen and Sneff came across the “Sussex Declaration,” as it has come to be known, in August 2015, while conducting online research of the digitized records collection of the United Kingdom National Archives for Harvard’s Declaration Resource Project. This previously unknown manuscript, dating from the 1780s, is written in the hand of a single clerk. They recently spoke about their discovery at the National Archives in the public program, “Discovering the Sussex Declaration.”

Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.