National Coalition for History

News Briefs, March 2011

Lee White, March 2011

Applications Invited for Teaching American History Grants

On February 2, the Department of Education announced that it was inviting applications for new awards under the Teaching American History (TAH) grant program for fiscal year (FY 2011). However, the notice in the Federal Register makes clear that the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request did not include funding for the TAH program. It states, “We are inviting applications for the TAH program to allow enough time to complete the grant process before the end of the current fiscal year, if Congress appropriates funds for this program.”

The full Federal Register notice, which includes all the necessary information on the application process, can be found at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-2290.pdf .

The application deadlines are as follows:

  • Applications Available: February 2, 2011.

  • Deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply: March 4, 2011.

  • Dates of Pre-Application Meetings: Pre-application meetings for prospective applicants will be held on March 11, 2011.

  • Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: April 4, 2011.

  • Deadline for Intergovernmental Review: June 2, 2011.

There will be two pre-application meetings for prospective applicants:

  1. March 11, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the LBJ Auditorium at the U.S. Department of Education Headquarters, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20202;

  2. March 11, 2011 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the same location.

For Further Information Contact: Mia Howerton, Margarita Melendez, or Adam Bookman, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., room 4C123, Washington, DC 20202-5960. Telephone: (202) 205-0147 or by e-mail: teachingamericanhistory@ed.gov. If you use a TDD, call the FRS, toll-free, at 1-800-877-8339.

Most observers expect major cuts in discretionary non-national security spending programs in the next CR that will fund the federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year. This is causing uncertainty within the Department of Education as to the availability of FY 2011 funding for Teaching American History grants.

The National Coalition for History continues to advocate for full funding for TAH in the FY 11 budget and for a dedicated funding stream for history education in the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Wal-Mart Retreats from Wilderness Civil War Battlefield

In an unexpected development, Wal-Mart announced on January 26 that it was abandoning plans to pursue a special use permit previously awarded to the retail giant for construction of a supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia. The decision came as the trial in a legal challenge seeking to overturn the special use permit was scheduled to begin in Orange County circuit court.

The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–6, 1864, was one of the most significant engagements of the American Civil War.

The National Coalition for History (NCH) is part of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an alliance of local residents and national groups seeking to protect the Wilderness battlefield. Collaborating with the Civil War Trust, NCH organized more than 250 American historians, led by Pulitzer Prize-winners James McPherson and David McCullough, in opposition to Wal-Mart’s proposed construction plans.

In addition to NCH, the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition is composed of the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Piedmont Environmental Council, Preservation Virginia, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Civil War Trust.

“We are pleased with Wal-Mart’s decision to abandon plans to build a supercenter on the Wilderness battlefield,” remarked James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Trust. The Civil War Trust is a member of the National Coalition for History (NCH). “We have long believed that Wal-Mart would ultimately recognize that it is in the best interests of all concerned to move their intended store away from the battlefield. We applaud Wal-Mart officials for putting the interests of historic preservation first.”

In August 2009, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a controversial special use permit to allow construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter and associated commercial development on the Wilderness Battlefield. A wide range of prominent individuals and organizations publicly opposed the store’s location, including. One month after the decision, a group of concerned citizens and the local Friends of Wilderness Battlefield filed a legal challenge to overturn the decision.

National Archives Uncovers Alteration of Lincoln Document

Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero recently announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time Lincoln researcher from Woodbridge, VA, confessed on January 12, 2011, to altering an Abraham Lincoln Presidential pardon that is part of the permanent records of the U.S. National Archives. The pardon was for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army who was court-martialed for desertion.

Lowry admitted to changing the date of Murphy’s pardon, written in Lincoln’s hand, from April 14, 1864, to April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Having changed the year from 1864 to 1865, Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.

See images of the document and a National Archives’ produced “Inside the Vaults” video short about this discovery online at http://go.usa.gov/Y1R. The images and video are in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions.

In 1998, Lowry was recognized in the national media for his “discovery” of the Murphy pardon, which was placed on exhibit in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Lowry subsequently cited the altered record in his book, Don’t Shoot That Boy: Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice, published in 1999.

In making the announcement, the Archivist said, “I am very grateful to Archives staff member Trevor Plante and the Office of the Inspector General for their hard work in uncovering this criminal intention to rewrite history. The Inspector General’s Archival Recovery Team has proven once again its importance in contributing to our shared commitment to secure the nation’s historical record.”

National Archives archivist Trevor Plante reported to the National Archives Office of Inspector General that he believed the date on the Murphy pardon had been altered: the “5” looked like a darker shade of ink than the rest of the date and it appeared that there might have been another number under the “5.” Investigative Archivist Mitchell Yockelson of the Inspector General’s Archival Recovery Team (ART) confirmed Plant’s suspicions.

In an effort to determine who altered the Murphy pardon, the Office of the Inspector General contacted Lowry, a recognized Lincoln subject-matter expert, for assistance. Lowry initially responded, but when he learned the basis for the contact, communication to the Office of Inspector General ceased.

On January 12, 2011, Lowry ultimately agreed to be interviewed by the Office of the Inspector General’s special agent Greg Tremaglio. In the course of the interview, Lowry admitted to altering the Murphy pardon to reflect the date of Lincoln’s assassination in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2071. Against National Archives regulations, Lowry brought a fountain pen into a National Archives research room where, using fade proof, pigment-based ink, he altered the date of the Murphy pardon in order to change its historical significance.

This matter was referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution; however the Department of Justice informed the National Archives that the statute of limitations had expired, and therefore Lowry could not be prosecuted.  The National Archives, however, has permanently banned him from all of its facilities and research rooms.

JFK Presidential Library Launches Digital Archive

To help mark the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, recently unveiled the nation’s largest online digitized presidential archive, providing unprecedented global access to the most important papers, records, photographs and recordings of President Kennedy’s thousand days in office.

To manage a digitization project of this enormity, the archivists of the Kennedy Presidential Library prioritized the Library’s historic collections beginning with those that hold the highest research interest and significance. These collections include the President’s Office Files; the Personal Papers of John F. Kennedy; the Outgoing Letters of President John F. Kennedy; the JFK White House Photograph Collection; the JFK White House Audio Speech Collection; and the JFK White House Film and Video Collection. At launch, the archive features approximately 200,000 pages; 300 reels of audio tape, containing more than 1,245 individual recordings of telephone calls, speeches and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of film; and 1,500 photos.

The digitization initiative was made possible through a public/private partnership between the NARA’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the 501 © (3) non-profit that secured significant financial support from private donors in order to help fund the project.

Historian Allison Blakely Named to National Council on the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that historian Allison Blakely has been appointed to the National Council on the Humanities. Blakely was nominated by President Barack Obama on August 5 and confirmed by the Senate December 21.

Blakely is a professor of European and Comparative History at Boston University and previously taught at Howard University for 30 years. He is the author of Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society; Russia and the Negro: Blacks in Russian History and Thought and numerous scholarly articles on Russian populism and the various European aspects of the Black Diaspora.

The immediate past President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Blakely serves on its governing Senate and the Editorial Board of its journal, The American Scholar. Blakely received his PhD and MA from the University of California, Berkeley, and his BA from the University of Oregon. Fluent in Russian, Dutch and French, he is currently working on an overview of the history of blacks in modern Europe.

The National Council is the 26-member advisory body of the NEH.

Lee White is the executive director of the National Coalition for History. He can be reached at lwhite@historycoalition.org.