Historians across the country are speaking out against the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia for renting its building to Moms for Liberty, a controversial “parents’ rights” organization that opponents say supports book bans and restrictions on teaching about race, gender, and sexuality.
Tonight, the museum will host the welcoming reception for Moms for Liberty’s sold-out “Joyful Warriors National Summit.” The four-day-long event, which will take place throughout Philadelphia, will feature speakers such as former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In the weeks leading up to the summit, workers at the Museum of the American Revolution demanded that the institution cancel the planned event, despite its legal obligation to honor the rental contract.
“We do not feel that any dollar amount is worth endangering the safety of the museum staff members in the building on the day of the event, serving as a host to a group that does not stand with our values, and damaging the museum’s reputation that we have all worked so hard to build,” read petition signed by 39 employees, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The OAH has issued a statement on Threats to Inclusive History, condemning groups engaged in efforts to ban books, push racist, homophobic and transphobic falsehoods, and that seek to distort history and historical practice. https://t.co/C6tSZpN37Z pic.twitter.com/xzuSaBjBB7
— Organization of American Historians (@The_OAH) June 26, 2023
At least seven professional groups of historians, including the National Council on Public History, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, and Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, have similarly urged the museum to reconsider its decision.
The Organization of American Historians (OAH), which calls itself the largest professional organization of historians in the country, released a statement this week denouncing Moms for Liberty, calling it “a group that pushes dangerous racist, homophobic, and transphobic falsehoods.”
“It is an organization that is actively engaged in efforts to ban books by and about LGBTQ+ individuals as well as individuals of color, and that rejects the importance of inclusive history and historical scholarship in teaching and understanding American life,” OAH’s statement went on.
The Professional Organization of LGBTQIA+ Historians expressed similar concerns about Moms for Liberty in a statement of its own earlier this month. “This organization consistently spreads harmful, hateful rhetoric about the LGBTQIA+ community, including popularizing the use of the term ‘groomer’ to refer to queer people and attacking the mere existence of trans youth,” the organization wrote.
This morning the NCPH Board of Directors sent a letter to the director of @AmRevMuseum, R. Scott Stephenson, urging him to reconsider the use of museum space by a far-right extremist group with close ties to white nationalism. (1/3)
— NCPH (@ncph) June 23, 2023
When reached for comment, the museum, a private nonprofit, said it plans to host tonight’s Moms for Liberty reception as planned.
“The Museum of the American Revolution strives to create an inclusive and accessible museum experience for visitors with a wide range of viewpoints and beliefs,” a spokesperson for the institution said. “Consistent with this mission, we make available after-hours and private rentals to groups that organize legally and safely, including federally recognized 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations.”
Founded in 2021 by former Florida school board members Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, Moms for Liberty earned a reputation for its fight to lift pandemic restrictions in schools, including those that required students to wear masks and get vaccines.
Since then, the group has opened hundreds of chapters countrywide and become a powerful force on the rightest side of the Republican party. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently added Moms for Liberty to its list of “antigovernment extremist organizations.”
The AHA has sent a letter to the Museum of the American Revolution asking that the museum “reconsider its decision to rent event space to Moms for Liberty as part of that organization’s Joyful Warriors National Summit.” https://t.co/Ur9ELraJpS
— American Historical Association (@AHAhistorians) June 26, 2023
In a letter to the Museum of the American Revolution, the executive director of the American Historical Association (AHA) James Grossman wrote that Moms for Liberty has “crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy.”
“For the AHA,” he continued, “this isn’t about politics or different understandings of our nation’s past; it’s about an organization whose mission is to obstruct the professional responsibilities of historians.”
The Museum of the American Revolution is not the first facility of its kind to come under fire for renting space to divisive political groups. Just last month, the Natural History Museum in London drew criticism for hosting a conference put on by the populist organization National Conservatism. In 2019, after public outcry, the American Museum of Natural History abruptly canceled a private gala honoring Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro planned by the Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce.
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