Publication Date

September 1, 2001

Perspectives Section


$100 Million Amendment for History Grants in Senate

For several months the House and Senate have been working on separate bills designed to implement aspects of President Bush’s education reform plan. Both the House and Senate bills focus largely on proposals relating to school performance, student achievement (based on some type of nationwide testing), and reading programs.

On May 10, 2001, in the Senate version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (S. 1), an amendment offered by Senator Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.) to authorize $100 million for history education in fiscal 2002 was agreed to (see the Congressional Record: Senate, May 10, 2001; pages S4807-4812). Byrd wants to continue his American History initiative for at least another year (currently, a $50 million history education grant program, sponsored by Senator Byrd, is being administered by the Department of Education).

In his floor statement Byrd explained to his colleagues what he meant by the teaching of “traditional” American history: “An unfortunate trend of blending history with a variety of other subjects to form a hybrid called “social studies” has taken hold in our schools. I am not against social studies, but I want history. If we are going to have social studies, that is OK, but let’s have history. Further, the history books provided to our young people, all too frequently, gloss over the finer points of America’s past. My amendment provides incentives to help spur a return to the teaching of traditional American history.”

While the language of the Senate bill authorizes the appropriation of funds for Teaching American History grants, at the present time, the House version of the education bill does not contain similar language. In fact, some House Republicans have vowed to strip the Senate bill of various expensive Democratic amendments when the two education bills (once they pass their respective Houses) are reconciled. Because of Senator Byrd’s influential position, the prospect of having a $100 million appropriation seems good.

House and Senate Mark Up Increases for Endowments

Both Houses of Congress have passed different versions of fiscal 2002 Interior Appropriations bills (H.R. 2217). On June 21, 2001, by a vote of 221 to 193, a $15 million floor amendment offered by Representatives Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Steve Horn (R-Calif.), and Nancy Johnson (R-Conn.) resulted in a modest $3 million increase for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an additional $10 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and $2 million more for the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS). NEA supporters were able to beat back- 264 to 145-an attempt by Rep. Clifford Sterns (R-Fla.) to take away the $10 million for the NEA. In making these budget adjustments, the sponsors believe there is a need to create greater parity between the budgets for the NEA and NEH (hence the more significant increase for the NEA). As approved by the House, funding for the NEH is pegged at $123.5 million, $115.2 million for the NEA, and $126.9 million for the IMLS.

On June 28, 2001, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the fiscal 2002 Interior Appropriations bill. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) received an increase of $2 million over the House passed measure of $3 million, thereby bringing the NEH budget line to $125.5 million. The $5 million total increase would be allocated as follows: federal/ state partnership, $1.5 million; preservation, $0.5 million; public programs, $1.0 million; research, $1.0 million; education, $1.0 million.

The $10 million increase provided by the House for the NEA as well as the $2 million increase for the IMLS (a total of $26.9 million) were both left undisturbed, meaning that these items will not be conferenceable and therefore not vulnerable to further attempts by House conservatives to reduce funding for these entities.

Action on the National Archives/NHPRC Budget

On July 26, 2001, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the Postal Service and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 2590)-the fiscal 2002 funding bill for the National Archives including the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended the National Archives be funded at $285.21 million-some $13.6 million higher than the House of Representatives version of the same funding bill. The Senate Committee approved an operational budget line of $244.25 million-the full amount requested in the president’s budget. The Senate level would provide sufficient monies for the electronic records initiative, complete the staffing of the Clinton Presidential Library and accelerate the processing of the Clinton Administration records. In addition, the Senate recommendation would expand electronic access to NARA services thus enabling the agency to better meet the requirements of the Government Paperwork Reduction Act.

The “Repairs and Restoration” (R & R)budget line is higher than the president’s request level ($10,643,000) that was approved by the House. Pegged at $41.143 million, the Senate R & R line includes funds to renovate the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. In addition, there is some $30.5 million for the construction of the Southeast Regional Archives in Morrow, Georgia (near Atlanta); the House version of the bill only provides $14 million for this undertaking.

There is good news and bad news for the NHPRC. The bad news is that the Senate recommended only $6.436 million for NHPRC grants. This is the same as the fiscal 2001 funding level but less than the fiscal 2002 House recommendation of $10 million. The good news is that, unlike the House figure that includes two sizable “earmarked grants” ($1 million for the John Adams election at the Boston Public Library and $1.7 million for planning assistance for the Oklahoma State Centennial scheduled to take place in 2007), the Senate Committee passed a clean bill with no special earmarks for directed grants.

Supreme Court Decides Tasini Case

On June 26, 2001, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 in favor of freelance authors and artists who had petitioned for the right to control electronic reproduction of articles. The case, New York Times Co. v. Tasini, began back in 1993 and pitted media giants like the Times, Sports Illustrated, and Newsday against six freelance authors who claimed the publishers had infringed on their rights by entering into agreements with two computer database companies to place their articles into three separate databases. (See the news story on page 7.)

New Chiefs for NEH, NPS, and IMLS

On July 25, 2001, the White House announced the nomination of Bruce Cole, professor of fine arts and of comparative literature at Indiana University to lead the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Cole was appointed to the National Council on the Humanities by President George Bush Sr. in 1991 and served until 1999. If confirmed by the Senate, Cole will succeed William Ferris who has been at the NEH helm since November 1997. Ferris’s four-year term is scheduled to end in November this year. The 63-year old Cole holds a PhD from Bryn Mawr and is a specialist in the Italian Renaissance. He has taught at Indiana since 1973 and has 12 books to his name. Cole has the reputation of being an excellent scholar and administrator.

On June 4, 2001, the president named Florida’s director of the Division of Recreation and Parks, Fran Mainella, to be the new director of the National Park Service. Mainella, whose nomination has been confirmed by the Senate, is the first woman ever to serve in the post. Mainella has been head of the Florida state parks for 12 years and is a seasoned professional. She possesses a Master of Arts degree and has more than 30 years park-related experience. She has served as past president of both the National Association of State Park Directors and the National Recreation and Park Association.

On July 13, White House nominee Robert S. Martin was confirmed by the Senate as the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Martin is a professor and interim director of the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Women’s University in Denton, Texas. Previously he served as professor and as associate dean of special collections at Louisiana State University (1991-95) and as director and librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (1995-99).

Panel to Scrutinize Smithsonian Museum Plans

The Smithsonian Institution has appointed a special blue-ribbon commission of historians and other scholars to advise on strategic exhibition planning at the National Museum of American History. Appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents, the special 26-member commission will report early next year.

The commission is charged to assist the museum director and his staff in planning exhibitions for the museum and will offer recommendations on the most timely and relevant themes and methods of presentation for the museum in the 21st century. At present, the museum does not have an up-to-date strategic plan. Specifically charged to correct this situation, the group will examine the content and presentation formats of exhibits in the museum, identify new themes not yet incorporated in exhibitions, examine the ways in which the museum reflects the nation’s past and present, assess the museum’s role as a national as well as a local institution, assess the strengths of the 3-million object collection and the museum experience as a whole, and examine the museum’s role in educating young people. According to a Smithsonian spokesperson, the panel might review the controversial Reynolds gift and exhibition agreement. The first meeting of the panel took place on June 29, 2001, and was designed to acquaint members of the panel with the museum and its educational mission.

The commission is chaired by Richard Darman, director of the Office of Budget and Management during the first Bush Administration. Members of the commission include NBC television news anchor Tom Brokaw and the History Channel’s Roger Mudd. There are many historians and scholars on the panel including Stephen Ambrose, David Donald, Eric Foner, Ramon Gutierrez, Neil Harris, Chet Orloff, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Edward G. White, Gerald Ford Foundation Executive Director Richard Norton Smith, and former Archivist of the U.S. and former George Bush Presidential Library Director Don Wilson. Sheila Burke, under secretary for American Museums and National Programs, and Spencer Crew, director of the National Museum of American History, will sit as ex officio members.

Release of Reagan Papers Held Up

The White House counsel’s office has asked the National Archives to delay the release of thousands of pages of historical records relating to the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Confidential memos, letters, and briefing papers are among the 68,000 pages of records requested to be withheld.

The documents are the first scheduled to be released under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. That law provides for a 12-year moratorium for the release of certain presidential records including “confidential communications requesting or submitting advice between the president and his advisers, or between such advisers.” On January 20 that moratorium expired. President Reagan’s Executive Order 12667 (16 January 1989), however, gives an incumbent president carte blanche authority to invoke “executive privilege” concerning any and all proposed openings. At this point, the White House counsel’s office has merely asked for a “delay” until the end of August in order to give government lawyers time to look at the files before researchers do. According to the White House press office, “We’ve asked for a short extension in order for the documents to undergo a legal review at the Justice Department.”

According to some historians, Reagan’s executive order, in essence, provides for a “presidential nullification” of the Presidential Records Act. American University historian Anna Nelson says, “I think this is part of that everlasting fear that somebody did something in the past that they can’t remember. I think they’re trying to protect their own people.” The White House press office denies allegations that the president is trying to protect his aides. Should the president ultimately invoke executive privilege for any or all of the records, according to the Reagan executive order, “the archivist shall abide by any instructions given him by the incumbent president or his designee unless otherwise directed by a court order.”

On June 23, 2001, the NCC filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request for the records transmittal list; the request was denied. The NCC asked only for the records list portion of the document and that “any and all discussion language between NARA and the White House be redacted.” The NCC and its legal advisers believe the records list of the transmittal letter is a public document and is not protected by the deliberative process privilege (see 5 USC 552 Section (b)(5). Nevertheless, on July 23, 2001, the NCC received a letter from NARA denying the organization the 28- page descriptive document. The letter states, “We have determined that this notice, in its entirety, is appropriate for withholding … and is protected by the deliberative process privilege.” On August 1, 2001, NCC filed an appeal with NARA. At this writing, no answer has been received to the appeal.

President Signs Bill Approving Mall Memorial

On Memorial Day President Bush signed legislation (P.L.107-11) that would create a monument to World War II veterans that “will stand for the ages.” Construction at the 7.4 acre site on the Mall in Washington D.C. is slated to begin in December and the memorial is expected to be completed by 2004.

Having grown exceedingly frustrated with six years of legal challenges and generally successful tactics of the opponents of the proposed memorial, Congress passed legislation that will allow construction of the controversial project without further review by the National Capital Planning Commission, which had recently announced plans to reconsider the Memorial’s design. The congressional action also nullified a lawsuit filed against the project in federal court.

Opponents denounced the House action as a “power grab” designed to strip federal agencies of their own oversight. President Bush felt differently. Noting that of the 16 million who served in WW II only 5 million are still alive, “It is more important than ever that we move quickly to begin construction if those who served are to see the nation’s permanent expression of remembrance and thanks.”

Congress Recognizes Juneteenth Independence Day

On June 19, 2001, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 163) and referred it to the Senate for action that recognizes the historical importance of Juneteenth Independence Day. The resolution recognizes Juneteenth (June 19) as the traditional day to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States and that “the celebration of the end of slavery is an important and enriching part of the history and heritage of the United States.” The resolution also stresses the importance of history in general. The resolution states that “it is the sense of Congress that history be regarded as a means for understanding the past and solving the challenges of the future.”

Juneteenth has its origins on June 19, 1865, when U.S. General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and announced that the Civil War was over and that the state’s 200,000 slaves were free. Vowing never to forget the date, the former slaves coined the nickname “Juneteenth” (a blend of the words “June” and “nineteenth”). While the holiday began in the American Southwest, today it is celebrated throughout the nation.

House Passes Adams Memorial Authorization

On May 1, 2001, Representative Tim Roemer (D-Ind.) and nearly 20 cosponsors introduced legislation (H.R. 1668) to authorize the Adams Memorial Foundation to “establish a commemorative work on federal land in the District of Columbia and its environs to honor former President John Adams and his family.” The bill recognizes that the Adams family “individually and collectively . . . have enriched the nation through their profound civic consciousness, abiding belief in the perfectibility of the nation’s democracy, and commitment to service and sacrifice for the common good.”

Hearings before the House Resources Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands were conducted on June 12 and two prominent Adam’s scholars—David McCullough and Joseph Ellis—testified in favor of the legislation and provided enlightening and detailed testimony on the accomplishments of former President John Adams and his family. On June 25, 2001, the House of Representatives passed the legislation.

As with the World War II memorial, a controversy has arisen over the placement of the monument. During the hearing, Rep. Roemer suggested that the memorial should be constructed on the Tidal Basin between the monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. If accepted, the suggestion would negate a vote last year by the Fine Arts Commission, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the National Capital Memorial Commission to ban new monuments in that area of the Mall. According to press accounts, several commission members have said that they are not prepared to make an exception to the ban for the Adams memorial.

House and Senate Pass Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission Legislation

On June 27, 2002, by a vote of 414 to 2, the House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 2133) establishing a commission for the purpose of encouraging and providing for the commemoration of the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. Introduced by Rep. Jim Ryun (RKans.) on behalf of the Kansas congressional delegation, the legislation seeks to establish a commission to plan and coordinate activities commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decision, which will fall on May 17, 2004. The bill now goes to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for action.

As envisioned in the legislation, the commission would work in conjunction with the Department of Education to plan and coordinate public education activities such as public lectures, writing contests, and other initiatives. The commission would also work in cooperation with the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research in Topeka, Kansas.

One unusual authority granted the commission is, that upon completion of its work, commission will have the power to accept and transfer or dispose of materials donated to the commission which relate to the Brown decision. Items to be retained will be placed in the Brown Foundation Collection at the Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The legislation provides that if there are materials that should be disposed of, the commission must consult with the Librarian of Congress and gain the express consent of the Brown Foundation and the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site (a unit of the National Park Service) before disposing of any such items.

For details about these items, as well as about various pieces of legislation introduced in the spring and summer, visit the NCC web site.

Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History.

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