Until this month, the US National Archives for Black Women’s History was housed in the house of Mary McLeod Bethune, an African-American activist who was an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. However, as this article recounts, its administrators, the National Park Service, took the decision to close the archive on 18 February in order to rehouse it at the NPS Museum Services, in Landover, Md.
This decision followed years of substandard attention by NPS towards the archive. Going against its own rules, it has not ensured that there were rangers exclusively assigned to the archive and has made Bethune House serve as a visitor centre for another historic site. Money that has been set aside for the archive has also been used elsewhere. This lack of care and appropiate attention for the archive makes the decision to move it even more questionable.
A number of academics have protested against this change, and according to information given to me by the protest organiser, Prof. Bettye Collier Thomas, of Temple University, this is having a positive effect. NPS Director Jonathon Jarvis has suspended the closure, but has not recinded the order. As a result, she is asking that supporters contact that NPS to insist it does the following:
To Rescind the order to shut down the National Archives for Black Women’s History (NABWH) and remove the collections from the Mary McLeod Bethune National Historic Site
To Appoint a replacement for Gopaul Noojibail as the NPS Acting Superintendent of the Bethune National Historic Site who describes himself as “The Closer”
To Restore to the Mary McLeod Bethune National Historic Site’s budget ALL funds previously appropriated by the U.S. Congress for housing and protecting the National Archives for Black Women’s History collections
To Resurrect and Reconstitute the Federal Advisory Commission as required by law
To Implement the General Management Plan as required by law – which includes the mandate to purchase property suitable for protection and expansion of the National Archives for Black Women’s History
To establish separate staffs for administration of the Mary McLeod Bethune and Carter G. Woodson National Historic Sites. In 2005 the Woodson House became an affiliate unit of the NPS.
To this end, Prof. Collier Thomas has issued a press release which includes a sample letter to send to Jonathan Jarvis and Secretary Sally Jewel. It can be accessed here:
Please take the time to write this letter. We cannot sit by while such an important archive is side-lined and neglected.
Mr. Jarvis’s email address -according to the NPS site- is: Jon_Jarvis@nps.gov