On December 3, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s National Parks Subcommittee met to consider legislation (S. 1838) to establish a commission to commemorate the upcoming sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
S. 1838, the “Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission Act,” was introduced by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Jim Webb (D-VA). The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to establish a 25-member commission composed of representatives from Congress, the executive branch, the corporate community and academia, including six historians. The commission would cooperate with and assist States and national organizations with programs and activities to ensure a suitable national observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It also authorizes a grant program for the development of programs, projects, and activities on the Civil War that have lasting educational value. The National Endowment for the Humanities would be authorized to award $3.5 million in grants to fund “appropriate activities” relating to the commemoration of the Civil War.
Katherine H. Stevenson, Assistant Director for Business Services at the National Park Service testified that the Administration would support the bill subject to minor amendments dealing with the appointment process and size of the commission. Ms. Stevenson also expressed concerns that the bill mentions specific organizations and places important to the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Since the Civil War was a national experience, the Administration recommended that other scholarly centers and programs be acknowledged so that a broader spectrum of social, political, and economic aspects of the war would be emphasized.
Testifying on behalf of the bill was David Madden, founding director of the United States Civil War Center at Louisiana State University. The United States Civil War Center and the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, have been designated by the Federal Government to plan and facilitate the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.
The National Coalition for History is a member of the Coalition for the Civil War Sesquicentennial. It is an ad hoc group of national organizations (see below) committed to the creation of an inclusive commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. The Coalition was established at a meeting convened this past April by the American Association for State and Local History. The Civil War Sesquicentennial Coalition has assembled a Council of Scholars,
co-chaired by James McPherson, James Horton, and William Cooper, which includes more than one hundred of the nation’s leading scholars of the War and its legacies.
Although the Civil War Sesquicentennial Coalition currently believes that the best way to achieve its goals is through the creation of a presidential commission, Coalition representatives are engaged in an ongoing dialogue with Senators Landrieu and Webb to seek common ground with their legislation to create a congressional commission for the Sesquicentennial.
Civil War Sesquicentennial Coalition Members
American Association for State and Local History
American Association of Museums
Association for the Study of African American Life and
Civil War Preservation Trust
Federation of State Humanities Councils
Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Foundation
Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History
The History Channel
National Coalition for History
National Council for the Social Studies
National History Day
National Trust for Historic Preservation
National Council on Public History
Society for Military History
Southern Historical Association