First Lady Michelle Obama is surrounded by schoolchildren from Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., after they performed part of a play at the Decatur House, a National Trust for Historic Preservation Site and home to the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History, in Washington, May 22. The events were part of an announcement of a major philanthropic effort to preserve the Decatur House
Washington Post: Michelle Obama visited the slave quarters at Decatur House — a red-brick structure that sits in the shadow of the White House — that once housed the black men and women who served 19th century politicians, military and business leaders who lived in the property. The first lady, who is the nation’s only first lady to have descended from people held in slavery, made the stop as part of an announcement that the historic Decatur House, which is located 150 yards from the White House, would receive a $1 million grant from American Express to preserve the house and accompanying slave quarters.
“….. For nearly 200 years, as our country has grown and evolved, the Decatur House has grown and evolved right along with it. This house has hosted parties and social events with some of our nation’s foremost leaders. It’s been a residence for secretaries of state, and at one time, it served as headquarters for the Army Subsistence Department of the Civil War.
But from the back of the house, from a structure far less lavish, comes even more history — the kinds of stories that too often get lost, the kinds of stories that are a part of so many of our families’ histories, including my own. I’m talking about the slaves here at Decatur House who spent their lives within shouting distance of one of the most powerful buildings on the planet — a bastion of freedom and justice for all.
Yet, within this very place, about 20 men and women spent their days serving those who came and went from this house and their nights jammed together on the second floor of the slave quarters, all the while holding onto a quiet hope, a quiet prayer that they, too, and perhaps their children, would someday be free. These stories of toil, and sweat, and quiet, unrelenting dignity — these stories are as vital to our national memory as any other. And so it is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that these stories are told.”
‘How did the University of Virginia come to publish a version of Lincoln’s inaugural speech that cut crucial words on slavery?’
Matt Seaton (The UK Guardian): ….I was preparing for publication Eric Foner’s article on the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration speech … I went searching for a transcript of the speech to link to. The results of a Google search took me to the site of the University of Virginia’s Miller Centre of Public Affairs; reckoning this a prestigious institution at a public university (founded by Thomas Jefferson, no less), I assumed this would be a reliable link to use …
Then I reached the passage quoted by Eric’s piece, where Lincoln flatly states: “One section of our country believes slavery is right, and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong, and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”
…I searched the transcript on the Miller Centre site for this sentence but could not find it…. I sent off an email to the Miller Centre staff, alerting them to the fact that they were publishing a misleading, redacted version of Lincoln’s address; and outlining my interpretation that it looked as though the speech had been cut to remove references to slavery… I received an immediate reply; and within an hour, the webpage had been amended and the full text restored.
Since then, I’ve done a full comparison of the cached version of the page and the amended one; at the foot of this article run all the passages that had been omitted from the original…
…the sum of the redactions appeared to have two key effects: first, of toning down or removing entirely Lincoln’s strong assertions of the legitimate authority of the Union before and above the Constitution; and second, as said, of shifting the emphasis away from slavery as the key point of dispute between North and South and towards differences over the precedence and prerogative of individual states v the Union in law-making and enforcement. It is difficult not to see a neo-Confederate agenda in this editing.
It is possible that the erroneous version of Lincoln’s address was published by accident or carelessness. But the alacrity with which a correction was made suggests that Miller Centre executives realised the potential damage to the institution’s reputation of hosting what might appear to be a politically tendentious, “doctored” version of the address.
Having had a polite note from them, thanking me for pointing out the error and confirming the correction, I wrote back saying I was considering writing about it and seeking their comment on several questions (see the questions here)
In contrast to the almost instantaneous earlier response, as yet, I have received no reply to these questions. So the Miller Centre would seem to wish to make no further comment. But given that its online database of the Scripps Library purports to be a vital resource for scholars of public policy, US government and presidential history, I certainly hope they are running some checks.