Editorial

Stop the War on History

October 2017

The Trump Administration has proposed massive cuts to history programs whose mission is to teach Americans what made their country great

During the Obama Administration, it seemed that one of the few things that Congressional Republicans and the White House could agree upon was cutting history programs. We lost the wonderful Save America's Treasures program (which had funded the restoration of the original Star Spangled Banner, George Washington's tent, Jefferson's papers, and Lincoln's Cottage where the Emancipation Proclamation was written.) And programs such as Preserve America, NEH's We the People, and the Teaching American History grants.

Now the Trump Administration has proposed budget cuts of truly catastrophic proportions for the history community, including a 72% cut to the National Endowment for the Humanities, with plans for its eventual demise.

The Administration has called for the elimination of the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS), which last year gave 328 grants to libraries to preserve or digitize materials and 278 grants to museums to encourage and support their mission of connecting Americans to the cultural, artistic, historical, natural, and scientific understandings that constitute our heritage. Many of the IMLS programs were specifically linked to literacy and education, workforce development, lifelong learning, and digital literacy.

The plan is also to kill the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, whose budget was only $5 million. NHPRC provides critical grants to preserve and make accessible a wide variety of records and archives, and publish collections that document America's founding era and other materials important to an understanding of American history. 

In this blitzkrieg against the history community, our new administration also wants to eliminate the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the official memorial to our nation’s 28th president -- a non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue --  conceived as “a living memorial” and gathering place for some of the best and brightest scholars and experts from around the world.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan signed a law creating the National Heritage Areas, which he described as "a new kind of national park" that married heritage conservation, recreation, tourism, and economic development. Today, the program includes 49 National Heritage Areas across the country where the Federal government works with local parks, tourist bureaus, chambers of commerce, and other groups to find ways to encourage Americans to visit the hallowed grounds where our nation was created. These include such areas as the Abraham Lincoln NHA in Illinois, the Hudson River Valley NHA, the National Aviation Heritage Area in Ohio, and the Tennessee Civil War NHA.

In Ronald Reagan's farewell address from the Oval Office in January 1989, he spoke of a final concern “that’s been on my mind for some time." Reagan worried about "an erosion of the American spirit…. if we forget what we did, we won't know who we are.” 

I can only imagine how angry President Reagan would be to know that a Republican administration is working so hard against his call for a "new patriotism… grounded in thoughtfulness and knowledge.”

 

For more information, visit the National Coalition for History.