Republicans claim National Archives anti-racism task force is 'erasing history'

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Republicans in Congress rush to promote a Fox News story with questionable facts.

Republicans in Congress are attacking an effort to add the previously neglected history of women, Blacks, and Native Americans to exhibits in the National Archives and the U.S. Capitol.

Between Sunday and Tuesday, at least seven members of Congress promoted a story from Fox News about a task force on racism that was set up by the National Archives under the Trump administration.

The Fox story, first published Sunday, echoes a familiar drumbeat from the right-wing outlet on issues of racism, playing up aspects of the report that it claims "knocks Founding Fathers."

The Fox article states, "The report categorized the National Archives' Rotunda as another example of 'structural racism'" and said that "the Founding Fathers and other White, historically impactful Americans are portrayed too positively."

However, the underlying reality is a bit different.

In October 2020, when former President Donald Trump was still in office, the archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, announced the creation of the Archivist's Task Force on Racism "to address racial inequality in both our customer-facing operations and internally within our workplaces in pursuit of an equitable and inclusive environment for all employees and customers." Ferriero has served in this role since November 2009.

Contrary to the Fox News description, the report from the task force, which was released on June 14, does not call for "rewriting" history.

The report includes among examples of structural racism "a Rotunda in our flagship building that lauds wealthy White men in the nation's founding while marginalizing BIPOC, women, and other communities." The report recommends "recontextualizing" the exhibition in the Rotunda of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights to make it more historically accurate and calls for an additional exhibit to make it a "more inclusive and historically accurate tribute to the nation's founding."

The report suggests planning an exhibit that "explores the roles of women, enslaved Africans, and Indigenous Americans in the founding of the United States along with contemporary views on the men who framed the founding documents and their participation in and positions on slavery."

The report did not call the Rotunda "an example of structural racism," but rather called for the National Archives to "identify where efforts to dismantle structural racism fall short" in an effort to improve its relationship with visitors from marginalized communities.

But just hours after the report was published, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) wrote, "Once again, American history is being denigrated by woke leftists. We will not stand for this. Are the leftists trying to destroy this country?"

Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN) claimed on Monday, "The radical left's movement to re-write American history has made its way to the National Archives, which they now deem racist."

"The woke mob is on a warpath to destroy our history," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) tweeted on Monday in response to the story.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) reacted on Monday as well, writing, "Rewriting or erasing history is a dangerous game that sets a perilous precedent."

"One thing is abundantly clear; everything America represents is racist & evil to Democrats," Rep. Byron Donald (R-FL), who highlighted the Fox story, noted on Tuesday.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) wrote on Tuesday, "America's National Archives is supposed to preserve history, not rewrite it," adding, "WOKE CULTURE HAS GONE TOO FAR!"

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX) wrote, "The woke left knows that if they can reimagine the literal structure encapsulating our founding documents, they are just steps away from deconstructing the founding documents inside."

In addition to a rethinking of the National Archives' displays, members of Congress are still fighting to eliminate features of the U.S. Capitol building that celebrate the country's history of slavery. On Tuesday, the House voted to remove statues depicting members of the pro-slavery Confederacy that are currently in the building's Statuary Hall.

Ahead of the vote, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) said in remarks on the House floor, "My ancestors built this building."

"Imagine how they would feel, knowing that more than 100 years after slavery was abolished in this country, we still paid homage to the very people that betrayed this country in order to keep my ancestors enslaved," Bass said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.