tv Whose Stories Are Told CSPAN December 27, 2018 2:41pm-4:02pm EST
c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house. the supreme court. and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. hello. i'm gail berry west and i am on the board of the white house historical association. on behalf of the association, the board is pleased that you have chosen to attend this
presidential site summit. i know you will agree that we have had in attendance a unique gathering here of presidential leaders, site director, educational specialists, and subject matter experts. thank you for supporting our organization with your attendance. and we look forward to continuing with you beyond the days of this outstanding summit. we want you to keep in touch. our next featured session this morning is inclusive presidential history. this session will explore recent efforts made by sites and libraries to incorporate the stories of lesser-known individuals, social groups, and
events, into the lives and times of the presidents that we are serving. i have witnessed the progress that many sites have made in regard to telling the story today of african-americans who previously were not discussed or even acknowledged as part of the american story. i recall going to visit the home of one of our presidents in 1969, and when i asked a question concerning slavery, my question was ignored. today, that same presidential site is readily telling the story of slavery and the role that slaves played. our inclusive presidential history panel will feature presenters, representing professionals in curatorial
work, public programs and historical interpretation, who have embraced this challenge, provided lessons for a variety of types of presidential sites, including those with the regional or national point of focus. now, i have the great pleasure of introducing our moderator and members of our inclusive presidential history panel. please let me say it will be a brief introduction of each, for it i were to share all of their outstanding bios, we would not be able to hear all that they will be sharing with us this morning. our moderator, william antholis is the director and ceo of the miller center, at the university of virginia. where he specializes in presidential scholarship, public policy, and political history. he was formerly managing director at the brookings
institution and served in the clinton administration as director of international economic affairs for the national security council. joining him on stage are panelists leslie bowman, president of the thomas je jefferson foundation which owns and operating the inesco world heritage site month shell low. catherine a.s. sibley, director of american studies at st. joseph's university a published author and professor, she was written on first lady florence harding and edited a companion to first ladies. earlier in her career, she was the author of red spy, stolen secrets of the cold war. timothy ntptali is a clinical historian and clinical associate
professor of public service at new york university. from 2000 to 2011, he directed the richard nixon presidential library and museum. he has co-authored several book, most notably for our purposes today, john f. kennedy, the great crisis, and in 2007, a book on george h.w. bush. and catherine allgor, president of the massachusetts historical society. dr. allgor is a noted american historian and specializes on biographies of american first ladies, most notably dolly madison. please enjoy this presentation on how different organizations, institutions, and individuals, are being changed and incorporating different perspectives and moments into the narrative of presidential history. thank you so much. >> thank you, gail. >> thank you.
>> thank you for the kind introduction and the whole team, for including me, and including all of us here. this has been a terrific few days already. and a lot of great programming ahead. it is hard to follow jon meacham and judy woodru if. ff here and i think we have a great team here and every one on this panel has been a scholar and everyone has run important historic institution, and i want to get at that in the conversation, so i am going to start, all good research starts with questions. but also, framing museums, framing presentation, also starts with questions, so i'm curious, what questions animates your work, and how do you think about the hard challenges of including voices, who to include, how to include them, in that mix, what are the questions that keep you up at night?
>> that makes us sow like we're terribly worried about it. what keeps me up at might is really the excitement of what we do. and i think i'm going to speak with a little prejudice but this is going to be the best panel of the entire conference. because though we are all historians, we are all futurists. we are talking about using the past to move forward into the future. and when you sort of threw that out there, and i was thinking about it, i thought one of the ways to think about this term, inclusiveness, this kind of getting our arms around it, is we're really talking about two kinds of inclusiveness, i think. one is exactly what gail was saying, it is the stories that we tell, the interpretation, the research, but there's another inclusion ive ty which is the people we are telling it to, who are they and how do we get them to come and listen to our story. so i think maybe if we kind of think of those two different camps, we can kind of divide up this rather amorphous term. >> when you think about that second group, do you think about
them seeing themselves in the story? in other words, is the audience participatory in your work as you are framing history for them? >> it is a tricky balance, isn't it? because on one hand, there is a value to somebody saying i see myself here, this is, i'm represented here, but the truth is, history is people, and they're fascinating, and somebody from a very different background could get excite excited about abigail adams, in my case or the abolitionist movement of the 19dth century. so we have to move forward, allow for the fascinating part of history that could just capture somebody. >> if i could jump in. >> please. >> i just want to make a correction, i don't actually run an historic home, i'm sorry to say -- >> but you run a center, right? you run an organization dedicated to the study of --
>> it is an academic program at my school, but i did want to use this as an opportunity for a shout-out to an historic home as we have all benefitted from that helped many of us, we can't do our work without these homes, because they bring us to archives are that we might not otherwise find and in my case it was the harding home and also people in marion, ohio, who are incredibly kind to me. a lovely woman called terrella romine, an elderly woman who took me to her home. you're not going to the holiday inn, come with me. i'll tell you some stories. it's wonderful, right? to get back to the question about the questions that animate us. in my case, as your lovely moderator introducer noted, i started out studying spies and useless to a few of those, perhaps, tim, and i was struck by the life of elizabeth bentley. she had been maligned, laughed at, this woman, no credibility, a drunk and maybe there's a story there and there certainly is a story there. she knew what she was talking
about. she liked drinking, too. that's okay. >> it was similar, he was wounded and maligned and overlooked and horrible names because her husband had an interesting story to tell and what animates me are questions that allow me to check the assumptions that so many people have and if you needed something more there in that story. >> you tackled some big, controversial issues in the library and you brought a scholar sensibility to it. how did you think through the bifurcated set of questions that katherine laid out there and both the questions that animate scholarship, and also what people are looking for when they come to a library and museum? >> well, i'm very grateful to the miller center for having helped prepare me for the job, but i learned a lot on the job. i think one of the things that scholars who go to presidential
libraries, and i would describe myself that way at the time is that we would go to the library for the archives and we rarely visited the museum, and as a result, we didn't realize or i didn't that a presidential library is both a national institution and a local institution. so when you think about your adience, you haa audience you have both a national one and a local one. when the nixon family turned the library over it the federal government. the federal government found itself with a really big problem is how do you both meet the national expectation for such a place and the local expectation because they were different? the national expectation, and we know this history rather well, all of us, but the national expectation had a lot to do with
the very fact that president nixon did not have a library and the fact that his library is the materials we would associate with the presidential library had to stay within 30 or 50 miles of the capital. the local expectation had to do with the fact that richard nixon was the son of yorba linda. in fact, the town of yorba linda so loved richard nixon that he was described on their coat of arms. so you have both the national problem which was how do you make a nixon presidential library credible to scholars and stakeholders who understandably associated richard nixon not just with watergate, but with years of litigation to prevent the release of tapes and papers while at the same time not having a revolt among local folk who loved the place because it reminded them of their
childhood, it reminded them of their first vote and of the things that they remembered about richard nixon and his family. so the question for me was what's legacy, and i learned on the job that the definition of legacy depends on the person. i think as a historian, legacy could be good or bad. it is, after all, the consequences of a set of actions and decision, right? but for those who love a president, legacy is only the positive element of what that president is, and if you attempt to in a clear-minded, straightforward, i think nonpartisan way to put the rest of the history in, to include the rest of the legacy, you find yourself rubbing up against expectations and in some cases you produced anger and resentment. so that was a very interesting balance to try to strike to meet
both the expectations for a national institution that had to be absolutely credible on the issues of watergate, abuse of power and the like because we have the materials of that presidency and by law we had to be accessible while at the same time being sensitive and empathetic to a local community whose vision of the president and the presidency were completely different. >> one quick follow-up on that, tim, just give us a little sense of characters that you included that might -- might or might not have been natural, right? this is the thing that's fascinating to me. it's how do you choose to highlight, you know, somebody -- the chief of staff, the president's lawyer, henry kissinger. how do you make those choices? how do you ask those questions? >> and i know people will understandably debate this, but when i thought about it, and i
talked with people and it was -- i didn't do this alone, but when i thought about what a federal institution, a federal library should be i felt that given the history of this particular place because it had been run as a very insular, i would argue, sectarian private library that the most important thing to do was to open it all up and to make clear there was no enemy's list. when i arrived there, i was told by the private foundation that there were people that just couldn't come, and i thought that if that were the spirit of this place, we would fail. the national archives reputation would be tarnished if we participated in a continuation of a nixonian enemy's list. well, who are those people? bob woodward, carl bernstein,
john dean. i made sure that before i left that institution bob woodward, carl bernstein and john dean were there. the other thing was they did not want an academic conference where any of the scholars were noted critics of nixon. they canceled the conference before. we made sure. it's not about me. there were a lot of folks that worked on this and we had academic partners. we made sure that there was a completely open, beautiful conference that talked about all aspects offis innon, h nixon, a within the opening of the presidential library. so inclusivity for us was a matter of including ideas and points of view because inclusivity will talk about different elements of it and for this library, its challenge was
to be inclusive of ideas and points of view, and i think we did it. >> since i live in the shadow of your little mountain at home and not to mention the big mountain at home, and you lived there, there's so much to include, right? this was a president of many talents, ambitions, just even on the estate itself and then also many things that had been secret. so obviously, you've made a big choice recently to much national attention, but that was back a half step. how do you think about the full range of those choices. you know, what are the tickets that people can buy when they come to the front boost, there are so many different options now and give us a sense of what inclusivity means and you can help us wrestle with the harder ones. >> thank you. i think the question that keeps us awake at night is are we a
conclusive and honest a history as we can and i would own that she wasn't talking about monticello she could have been and when i arrived ten years ago, the question and the board, which is what they wanted to know when they came through the door and they didn't get the answer you wanted which is who is the man who writes all men are created equal, and -- [ indiscernible ] >> and the institution had been on an amazing trois jektsry aje owe my predecessors for decades working on understanding
monticello. at that point it had not arrived on the mountain so the last ten years we've been really on a journey to bring all that research and bring all that information into the visitor's physical experience, and then there's another question, i think, and that is something that you touched on, as well. so you can't answer that question, and you keep an honest and authentic a story as you can with as much rigor and transparency as possible, but i can't answer the question about how he felt about writing those words. that would be disingenuous, right? i think monticello had vigorously struggled with how to be transparent in our history without prescribing how you or you or you would want to answer that question, but i think the other question that we should all ask monticello, and i'm
taking it out of john meacham speeches in the past is if he can come to monticello in the 1960s and we were doing what every site was doing and we look back and we were getting it so wrong, much as our founders got it wrong, right? with bravery, what is our country doing today that is also in 50 years going to be looked at with bewilderment? >> i want to connect something you said with the vigorous struggle with something tim said and said this wasn't just about me. how do you teams work on these questions? we are complex organizations and we have mixes of scholars if you're in a university and there's largely a lot of other scholars around you and you have others that help with communications and the like.
what's the process like? is it -- is it a painless journey or a painful journey? tell us a little bit about that. >> think it always goes on mission and a place. a mission and a kind of underlying intention, and i think for the historical society we've had an acumen admission statement in 1991 which was to collect, preserve and disseminate and whatever that means and it's still a pretty good mission statement even though it's been tweaked. i think it's important for everyone to understand where it's going and then to have a really big goal and our goal is to change the world and that's the business a lot of us are in through education, through helping the american public understand their history, especially for children and teachers, and if you have a staff that understands emissions and has awe big goal like let's
make this world a better place and let's help people imagine their future and if you give people something to work on it goes a long way with pushing it down the road. >> i think to your point earlier how we are futurists and that connects what you said, looking ahead, how it will look like what we did now and being conscious of that. so when i came to my university we didn't teach women's history at all. in fact, we didn't teach african-american history for that matter, and this was in the early 1990s and i thought i might be able to teach women's history, why not? each though i hadn't been trained in it. my colleagues were encouraging, to your point, how we find homes where we can build and grow and encourage others and we could be in hospitable places like institutions and you get into the the first lady, sue everyone
de15ed or perhaps we are left with the downs and having exhibited pat nixon. wow! she has some interesting travel that she did around the world, et cetera andy have to mention michael perleson. >> ellen wilson, who preceded edith wilson and when he does all of those things to shut down the press and the post and all of this and ellen pointed out. she was concerned about the fate and the plight of workers in the government because we were not in safe condition especially the women workers and so she pointed out that many women who worked in the postal services and the national postal office in washington were getting
tuberculosis. she asked him to tell burrellson through wilson and the message was never carried on because she was dismissed and it didn't seem important. >> and i think on inclusivity and on finding these new places where we can explore, we need to kind of draw on all of the things and to think of the future, we didn't care about women and working women and african-americans who were working and women and all of these thing, right? i think we are very fortunate to be living in a time when these questions are being asked and we do have a long way to go. monticello, it was much, much different even 20 years ago. i think there were exciting things there. >> i think mission is a very important source of good morale. i also believe that the director passed to the best of his or her ability shielded the members of the team from the politics of the situation. i tried my very best. i know i didn't always succeed.
i mean, this was a very contentious story, but i want to talk about archivists for a minute. i want to talk about the people that are so important to the work that we historians and those of us who love history -- the two should be the same, do. i don't think people know the emotional and professional strength that archivists at the national archives underwent to make sure that the nixon materials were available to be public. this predates me by decades. this is a story that needs to be told by some point and this is a great american story and these people are heroes. these people put up with incredible pressure generally from the nixon family and foundation and sometimes from the national archives in sort of a darker period, but they did their job and it's because of these people, and i'm talking
about a generation and the half of archivists that we have the nixon tapes. >> i was fortunate to be there to bring the process almost to the conclusion and that my successor finished it off, but when you talk about the -- when we talk about the cost of doing the right thing in presidential history, there are costs that are worth bearing and there are costs and let's not forget it. one of the things i learned and as part of that, i had this misunderstanding. we think that the system works without any of us getting a nudge. we think when push comes to shove materials will be released and exhibits will be produced that will match our expectations about access, transparency and on the part of the ship and it's not true and it's not because there's some group out there trying to deny it. it's just that there are many stakeholders who define legacy in a certain way who don't want
that material released and the public and historians don't often do the pushing they need to. in the middle of this are the archivists who are trying professionally to do the right thing every single day and they're buffetted by these strains. so i can't tell you how much i admire the folks that do -- i've gone on to do other thing, but my colleague, former colleagues who are still in the business and new people i didn't know who were in the business who every day are toiling and working professionally to make sure we all have access to the presidential history we care about. so those are the people that are often forgotten in the story. >> so leslie, bringing it back to you and telling people, including myself, and how you got there and how you took the history and how you knew about
the history of the jefferson hemings relationship and to the extent that you can bring it to life while there's still uncertainty about certain parts of it and how that worked as a team e to affort. >> it's kind of the effigy and we faced it last because we knew it would be the moef challenging and it was connected to the house. there's no secret stairway, by the way, and so we learned a lot as we began that journey. in 2009 we opened the visitor center and all of those exhibits and i'm with an incredibly team of devoted people. i want people to understand that we didn't just open the exhibit. we really transformed the mountain and put the narrative back at any one time 130 men, women and children who are living and making jefferson --
but we know it would be the lightning rod, right? and we really did learn from that, that journey because as we put a cabin on mull perry road, we had people who went inside and we have a first-hand account about how priscilla and john's cabin looked. the white coverlet, the band box. we could actually do a period in two years that has real connection and not just our understanding as stakeholders and we put that cabin back exactly the way it would have been built arc yol odjickly the way it was and to be true, honest and accurate and visitors were not allowed to walk in and a child to say that's not so bad, and i want to come back to your question, how do you put together the team that works on
it? the team cannot only be the people inside the institution and it has to be across disciplinary team at a minimum, but you've got to have the visitor's voice. remember, we are a public trust. the american public trust museums and i'm sorry judy woodruff and everyone else in the press, and in this case it's newspaper, but it could be media, so we have an enormous responsibility to the public, and we've got to keep hearing those voices even when we don't like them and we think they're wrong and we don't understand. how do you get the facts and resources so they can come that to their own opinion. we said, you know what this we can't do a period room. what is a period room and a trunk and a cot and a fireplace tell us about the most famous
african-american woman in history, how will that convey that she's a sister? that she's a mother, that she's a daughter and she lived in paris and negotiated with jefferson and because of that negotiation, and how do you convey that with the minimal goods that we think would have been in her will. we did a lot of controversial things and that's how those rooms should look and we have the cook's quarter right here. people can look at that to see how slaves lived right next door, but we're going do something different with sally hemings, and i just want you all to come. >> no big reveal. >> it's theatrical and we want people to feel her life and not just know about it, and we asked her to make the decision that we would include nothing without
rigorous fact. so as our designer started weaving things together -- no, no, no, no, no. you can only work off of the words and the period we know and what i will tell you because it has enormous relevancy to where we are today and i love your introduction because you're giving me a lot of launchpad, we legitimized the oral history of her son which had been ignored for more than a hundred years. so when the dna came out everybody thought oh, now we know! unless gordon reed had come to that conclusion based on what other evidence way before dna. dna was merely collaborative and it didn't even pin it on thomas jefferson. it only said it had to be a jefferson male and there was a lot of oral history and primarily evidence and her own son who made it very clear that jefferson was their father and we elevated jefferson's words
that turned out to be rather poetic and used only his words about his mother inside that room. >> i wanted to mention the fact that i was living in charlottesville when the thomas jefferson foundation changed its perspective on sally hemming, and i was very influenced by that and i was hoping that at the nixon library the tapes would be the dna and what happened the private library had a watergate exhibit which was a fantasy and it made richard nixon out to be a victim of an effort by democrats to overturn the verdict of the 1972 election and it was essential for the credibility of this institution that it have a real watergate exhibit and it was essential for the credibility of the national
archive and i would argue that it was very important throughout the country that this be possible, and what's the dna going to be? and i can't tell you the respect i have for the way in which the foundation finally turned because it was quite bitter and mean to scholars like gordan reed beforehand. so i decided we would do an oral history program where i would let people of the nixon era speak to the local community and the national community heard these people speaking on pbs many times over, but the local community hadn't. i'm talking about chuck coalson. i'm talking about john dean. i'm talking about george schultz and leonard garmin and have those voices tell the story of the crime, the abuse of power
and the strengths and weaknesses of the president and let them and not some carpetbagger. i was very fearful of being the carpetbagger from the north. i know i'm from virginia and it's sort of weird. you can't be a carpetbagger from -- you know what i mean and that the tapes themselves would be the dna. i wish i had a good story to tell you. i have a very good story to tell you about the national effect and i'm very proud to say and sharon was my boss for most of this process and the watergate exhibit is still there and it's now considered a permanent feature, but i don't think we convinced the local community. i think they actually thought of it as fake news. it was my first experience of encountering people whose minds were closed and at one point they came to me and said we understand when the president says things about jews you made
this up in washington and you created it, tim, didn't you? that i was somehow creating this data and the families were preventing the histories from being shown because they did not want people to hear those voices. so -- so i think one of the things that's important to say is that we should do what is right, but sometimes the target audience is not going to change its mind, but it doesn't matter. we still have to do it. >> i love that because if we inspired you and that was my predecessor of the time of the dna, you've inspired us because we had to talk about the fact that we were doing with sally hemming is, give leequivalent t exhibit. thank you for that. >> it's a virtuous circle. you know what? we have to thank sally hemming, really. >> i'm reflecting and hearing
words like truth and fact and responsibility and we do have a responsibility to tell the truth, but it's also a great gift. a lot of institutions in our culture will say they have a commitment to diversity and a commitment to inclusivity and do they have to? i don't know, but the great thing about being a historian is we include these stories, sally hemming, women, the workers and the activists behind the scene, not because it's nice and not because it's the polite thing to do, but because it makes our history whole. it tells a fuller and more accurate truthful story and -- and i'll direct this at you, katy and yes, it's important to do. it almost feels like it's popular and when i was reading your work on first ladies and recent first ladies have been far more popular than their
husbands. is there a paradox there? on the one hand we focus on the president and we have to work hard to include these voices and on the other hand they're popular. >> and they take on interesting roles. they have some freedom and if they choose to exercise it and to use the platform for good and a number of them especially in recent times have and sometimes it's a controversy and we know from hillary clinton in the medical area, but on the other hand, they're often able to leave a legacy and think of laura bush, laura bush and her work, for instance on literacy. a common example many of you may know about like rosalynn carter and mental health. it was completely overturned in the next administration by reagan and congress, et cetera, but she really wants to see mental health be better in this country. >> you heard last night about betty ford acknowledging -- >> and also not only about
breast cancer and mental health when she was struggling with alcoholism so it is interesting, isn't it? i think the current first lady will use her platform for good because it is a powerful one and not all first ladies have taken advantage and we're talking about truman and the good things. sadly, it didn't really do a whole lot. it's too bad. i think she wanted to be back in independence, and i mentioned ellen wilson and of course, florence who i would say made the cracks in the mold that eleanor roosevelt made and let's remember that about florence, she really did make interesting changes and i don't want to bore you with florence and i do want to get back to the issue of dna because this was something -- and tom was telling the story of inclusivity and a couple of years ago that evidence had learned that they had fathered a child and for years i had not believed this because i was on my, i guess, mission to show that this was a story, florence
harding we want to run things that we do, i think all of us in local history and inclusivity is to humanize these people and i wanted to show that she was a human being and the fact is, yes, her husband did have an affair with kerry phillips. there were letters and the archivist helped me find this in wyoming and there was a big archive there. now the letters are finally opened and they're opened in 2014 after harding died that showed this relationship and then there was this ann briton character and there were no letters there. here they go again. they just want to bash the hardings and make this salacious story about this affair and she had a short-lived marriage, if it was a marriage, and then she met warren and they had no children so clearly she could have children and he couldn't. so how could there be a child as the president's daughter and back to 2015, i think it was and after the letters came out from
phillips and the dna which seemed to suggest that indeed warren had fathered a child because this child now a 67-year-old, and the blessing indeed, he was the second cousin to harding's great nephew -- grand nephew. so what that meant for me for inclusive history, and i had to go back and re-write my piece about florence which drew somewhat from my earlier book and there's a story here and it certainly said something about her husband and not very nice. he was dating some woman 30-something years younger than him and it seems that the evidence that this did happen and the dna paints a fuller picture, doesn't it? and in a way that i was disappointed, but we have to tell what really happened, don't they? i have my mission to change the story. can i just not mention that? >> did the harding home, how did they receive that news?
>> oh, i haven't had a chance to talk to them about that. i understand there was discussion at the library of congress about it, and i know some harding family members who were there and they all pretty much acknowledged and they should embrace it. and i think it brought us this idea of one way to think about a presidential site and the presidential site is one guy at this point, is to bring in the idea of family so at the historical society, we're not just the holders of john adams' papers and john quincy adams' paper, but we have a family. we have the johnson and the wonderful national park service overseas that family homes in piecemeal and when we open up the idea of family and even if you wanted to keep that story to the president's family, women,
children, slave, servants and other people that are around. so i think the idea if you are in the presidential site, i want to open the story up a bit and look around at the family and see who's around and what kind of interesting characters pop up? >> and have you found that that connects audiences? >> oh, yes. absolutely. absolutely and in fact, speaking a little bit and shifting to the stories we tell, this idea of audience, i think that if you have a compelling story you can connect to any kind of audience. so we're getting ready to, we have an adams anniversary year coming up with the anniversary of her death and her birth and we're trying to think about all of the different ways we can tell the story of abigail and john and how we can connect our connections to as many people and as many kinds of people as possible. so i would say even if you just had your president's story, if you tell it well enough it doesn't have to necessarily
include the cast of characters and representing all walks of life, but you can connect people to the story. >> so i want to connect it back to your scholarship. i was intrigued by the work and the creation of the nation. tell us about that a little bit. does it go beyond family to a deep, resonant connection or was it that she's this incredible hostess and connector coworker with the chief of staff or jimmy? >> i like how you call him jimmy. i'm sure he would appreciate that. so here's the thing. that's why we do this. why do we study women's history and it's not to be polite and when we look at what women are doing we discover something different about american history and i can go on and on that will say things and when we look at the form that she adapted and the founders telling us that the revolution is done and we'll
abandon all things in arkansas that the early federal government was independent on the aristocratic forms and that's part of the historical significance and what i think is the deeper lesson and when i take the woman seriously, is we understand that even in the early days of the republic when the style of politics was violent and masculine as the work of jo ann freeman shows up, was there another model and there was a woman and her colleagues who had cooperation, civility and empathy. he did not succeed, right? it didn't stop the war of 1812 and because of that partisanship at a time when they didn't have a word for it, we now know we have the model in our history and if we as americans look to our history for guidance and we do because we're reporting it all of the times are there was a moment back there when there was
a different model for politics. >> so jefferson is president without a first lady. >> that was actually the question, right? >> oh, i'm there. i mean, you know -- she wasn't able to exercise agency or open power as a first lady, but -- >> the relationship certainly existed. >> i actually concur the relationship. we are very careful how we describe that. we describe that as a way madison and her son described her and her mother as concubine and we know she was in monticello, which was the white house, it was not yet called the white house. we than the concubine relationship is existent when she's coming back from monticello, but is she an influence on him? was it rape?
was it affection? all these questions are in the exhibit and we cannot answer them, but there's no question that he and she had something sustained going on between them for decades. >> tell us a little bit about the role his daughter plays during this period and what you know about it both the time in the presidency and also as she traveled back and forth from monticello. >> it comes into much more focus after the presidency. >> after the presidency. >> she's in her own marriage and it's not an easy marriage. there are mental health issues in the randolph family that surface, and probably some bipolar disease. >> on his side, not with her husband. >> right. exactly. when jefferson comes home to monticello, john meacham likes to say the roads are open and, of course, he declined he can't be in monticello for 40 years
and he finally does come home in 1849 and never leaves and he calls his daughter and her family to be the hostess of the plantation to run it and manage it and that is partly because he wants a woman to be in that role and he can't obviously have his concubine doing that and it's also because he wants to protect her and have her and her children at monticello. >> but she does make a couple of appearances and this is martha jefferson randolph ask she is habitually his hostess, but she's not there a lot and meanwhile, dolly madison is on the other side of town creating a political center full of networks and connections that she'll take in the white house and leverson lets her do it, but there are these moments where she does show up and think of the work of cynthia kerner and it's directly when the stuff of dusky sally comes out in the press and kerner calls this
domestic performance and that possibly by the president's very white, very respectable daughter coming and making herself visible that she's helping soften it. i don't know how you feel about that. >> the chapter on the jefferson first lady is about martha and the other sister, too. >> they were flying visits. >> whaft was it? >> flying in, and they were hostesses and the author of this interesting piece and the companion, makes it a point that she, writing from monticello was really like this soccer, s-o- krfrmt
c- c-c-o-r and this brings up the issue of the first ladies under the time of buchanon, for instance and people often died in the white house and also included lauren and florence couldn't continue because that was sort of the end of his term and there were oftentimes these cases where these men came and they didn't have wives relatives to take it on, but picking up on something you said about the context of the time of dolly and the jeffersons and also in the 20th century, a very interesting time for women and florence got involved in was supporting women in politics. she had to be careful. she wanted to be a republican and she didn't want to be too partisan and she knew she had to be careful about that, but instead she turned more of her efforts toward activism on behalf of prisoners and women prisoners who were treated pretty badly and animals and that sort of thing and one thing i want to bring in about inclusivity is the story of illness and we have a history of many presidents and first ladies who have been ill and oftentimes
especially in the 19th century, these women get completely overlooked and they were ill and there weren't many interesting stories among these women and one anecdote that i want to leave you here with florence. she had a kidney ailment, just like ellen and ellen died of it during the time of wilson's presidency and what she did was she got very ill and the whole country was told about it and unlike john f. kennedy and others. it was out there and people prayed for her. she got better, but not long enough. she died a year or so later, but there was this sense of love and connection, and so i think that idea of illness that's a piece of inclusivity. we need to talk about that, as well. >> i am curious about pat nixon during that entire period, not just watergate, but having just watched the cnn documentary 1968
from the campaign, pat nixon had gone back when he was vice president over all of those years to the turbulent years of the late '60s and then through the white house and finally watergate and we find out later about her own struggles with depression and alcohol and that. as you hear conversation about first ladies, tell us what you're thinking and what kind of questions and did that come into play when you were at the library? how were you presenting pat during that period? i was listening intently and how hard it was to document first ladies and the system of papering the white house, if you will, is not designed at least wasn't designed until arguably eleanor roosevelt to actually preserve the voice of the first
lady and her actions and activities. although i'm learning so much about florence, and it may well happen with florence. i actually believe it's very hard to get insight on what a first lady is thinking and doing, and i think we have examples of where we do have insight and that's because the first lady for her children were so strong they were willing to let us see what's in all her activities and i'll give you two examples and one is lady bird johnson and her diary and i could be wrong about this and i don't believe there are many, if any decisions, and i apologize. i haven't worked on this with my library, and the other is jacqueline kennedy is the work with arthur schlessinger with ambassador kennedy and ambassador kennedy decided to
release unredacted and they're very revealing and they're not always complimentary to mrs. kennedy, and i think those are exception and in the case of pat nixon it's a very sad story. it's a very sad story, and my sense is that she didn't want to be first lady. >> a quick follow-up to that, when florence was staying at the willard hotel which believe it or not she was, after warren died she came here for a while before she got sick and died and she got a chance to write her own experiences and she said i'll do it and she had someone to help her and one of the first things that came out and i think you're absolute lie right. it's important to let out what really happened. >> this is where the -- this is where the presidential library system, and there are challenges because the courts have defined privacy for the president and
the first lady, and so there are obstacles to the release of materials about these matters and now the family can waive its privacy, but many families don't, so there are whole spots and white they'res that can't be filled because the family doesn't want to fill them and that also includes medical issues and so i think when you do first lady history and when one does it and it's extremely important and i think what's important is i don't like to have siloed history and when you pull it all together because first ladies interact with presidents and it's not like they have a separate parallel life and pat nixon's case, to some extent she did, but it's pulling -- anyway, i would recommend a certain mod of they
because unless the family releases these materials, a lot of when you're hearing is what the advanced team presented during the presidency. it's the same stuff. you can actually go back and see the same words and the same arguments about the first lady in '72 and '73 in the case of pat nixon. it's the same story and it's not, it's an advancement story and it's not really the real story, right? because the real story, understandably, it's not within the powers of the federal government to share that. it's protected by proxy issues, so i would recommend a little bit of modesty and assuming that we can know about some first ladies and there are exceptions and lady bird johnson and to some extent jackie kennedy and betty ford, for example, opened the doors, but a lot of first ladies, we still don't know. >> please. >> can i speak to the role of the family and i'll take that in a slightly different direction
and go behind the curtain? >> for us, researching montt chel o the family is a descendant. you asked the question, how did we as a time come around it and it's an inclusive story that we all need to tell and the inclusivity we all need to model as we try to get at that story and struggle with it and search from the truth and the elimination. i not that monticello's 25 years of oral history with the more than 300 descendants of the community has been unbelievably rewarding and we couldn't have done what we have done without their participation. so i just want to -- you know, we, unfortunately, we are far too white at monticello. i'm sorry. i own it. we have a descendant on our staff now. i'm very proud of that. we needed to go out and ask them and montpelier was with the
sister site and they're doing the same thing and they've done a wonderful exhibit on the exhibit of slavery and the country, and the voices of those descendants have got to be part of the story we tell in our case about slavery. so whatever the inclusivity is, you were talking about the family relation of the first lady, i think we all have to remember our obligation and our mandate, really to the public to include the voices as we do everything else. >> that's a terrific addition because i was going to tell katherine about something that came on, and the historical side has papers and it also has physical history of homes and material history which was your own background, but then there is this oral history that -- maybe, katherine, you should talk about this more because you live in this space there and does oral history come into your work as something they connect?
>> no. absolutely. you know what's interesting? there's a shift that's been really terrific around history making. so it should have been that historians are looking at a source and how to read it, evaluate it and the subject to critical thinking and constructing thesis and that's what historians did and what schoolchildren did, for instance, was just memorize that and so there was this huge gap between what history meant to everybody from kindergarten to 12th grade. now we've changed and now they have the common core and massachusetts have this where we prize now not the memorization of information, but the ability to act like a historian. >> even the most simple level and to be able to make an argument from it and that now has broke open the barriers to different kinds of silos, right? that separate the knowledge from
those who do not, and so the amazing thing now is we're able, in a paper project where your third grader cannot come in and hold up to remember the sweater, but we can use these sources as ways to build for schoolchildren. >> i just wanted to add -- >> history days. >> not just that i'm -- we didn't change --. the federal government is not trying to teach you how to view history. we want to give you more information, and maybe with older folks, but with school kids that came to the library and their teachers, the effect of adding and including this new data and these oral histories and video histories really had an effect and i remember teachers coming to me and we would get 12,000 and at that
time the education specialists and they would come to me and they would say, you know, this is so refreshing because when they came to the private library the students were taught that all presidents do this. and i thought what a cynical way to teach history to our citizen, that every president commits a crime. >> that's why the sources are so important. >> but that was the only way for these folks to massage the nixon story was to say that every president was a crook and that only nixon got caught and there was a double standard to which he had to -- a double standard that was imposed on him or expected on him that his predecessors didn't have to meet. so the fact that we have history day and the fact that we now
have student historians opens the possibility for a presidential site to do great educational missions and that's an experience we had at the nixon library and perhaps with the older folks, this new data, they didn't want to absorb it, but the kids were delighted to have this data to play around. >> oral history has undergone a redemption in the historical perception thanks to people like nick, gordon reed and it's perfectly put because it's a great way for students to get involved and sometimes it's the gateway drug, if you will, that the documents scare them and the handwriting scares them, but if you give them their phone and send them out into the community to ask for the story, that's sometimes the gateway. >> i don't know if that's a dealer. so we go to the lightning round here and a couple of different questions and first, as you know, the miller center has a web page for every president where we have these biographical
essays and what's the link that we have to have on john adams' page and the one -- other than the historical site, of course. >> what is the inclusive story that we should be steering someone to? >> if you really let me have my choice it would be the link to our employment page, right? [ applause ] you apologized for monticello being rather white, it is very inclusive and supportive, i would say of women, but we need new people in our profession is always, wheres is pipeline and we decide the pipeline is undergraduate and we have fellowships that allow undergraduate from diverse backgrounds to come and have an internship with the
massachusetts historical society and they walk up the steps to be an archivist and the tloifrng our employment page. >> but is there an adams story that is a link about adams and i have to confess. i'm a woman's historian and i would have to start to say to take the work of women's history and histories weren't siloed and it was just one and it was the narrative of war and power and it was populated by white men and it was only until historians of women and people of color that people started going oh, well, you want it to be all together. believe me, we wanted it to be all together and we have a narrative that includes the
lessons and i think the place that we are now. so those national narratives used to be created by scholars who would disseminate them into the textbook industry and i think we have a role to play as subjects and as sites to craft that national narrative. it doesn't have to come from the top down and it can come from the people of the wisdom of people that come to us and they asked us questions and i just want to say that it's a very telling thing about monticello that they started listening to what people really wanted to know about. >> tim? >> when the watergate, when i produced the draft watergate exhibit, it was a great fight over this, and i decided working with my colleagues at the nixon library to create a web page with all of the facts and the footnotes for the exhibit and
all of the documents and some of which we found in the vault which had been closed for a number of years and the oral history and the tape that showed the evolution and the cover up. at the center, he was not only the architect, but he was at the center of the cover up and we produced this page so that folks -- there were people that were not short of this either so the national archives and the nixon foundation could all see the evidence. that web page, i am proud to say, is still part of the nixon library page and if any of you are interested in the definition or in obstruction of justice of abuse of power, how presidents can do this and have done it and to see the evidence of it, it's on a federal website and that's what i would link to. i would link to the watergate exhibit evidence which lays out
from the pentagon papers, plumbers story right through the resignation. the story of the reason why richard nixon had to leave office before the end of the second term and that might be useful for other reasons. i don't know. >> thank you and to the point about silos, all of the first ladies wanted a book here and that was only because the companion series had the presidents and i said what about the first ladies? you might see this in other volumes and it was written by anita mcbride and katherine, and they say the full story of this woman has yet to be written and that would be a story that would include, rid? their relationship probably with the men, but to your point about the website, i think it's better because last time i looked it seemed to mostly focus on the poisoning. the poisoning of warren and i think they've all heard the story and i would like an editing of that to downplay the
story and to show that there is -- you do -- you personally, but your center does say that this is an allegation and a larger, fuller picture that florence was destroyed when warren died and we do not need to raise that kennard. >> no. but i am reminded of a comment that lonny bunch made. lonnie bunch is an old friend and was very interested in monticello as we began to embark on this story and it was the 2012 landmark exhibition with his galleries in the american history museum, and with that museum we jointly prepared the exhibition slavery at jefferson's monticello paradox and we went on to channel
elizabeth, our curator and rex heller and at the moment, we had the launch of the staff together and we announced we would do this. he said you cannot understand race in this country if you we to do this, he said, you cannot understand race in this country if you do not understand slavery. you can't understand slavery if you don't understand the plantation system. and you don't understand plantations unless you go to places like monticello. so i think what i would ask you to link to is not sally hemmings because you can't understand sally hemmings if you don't understand the economy in which the entire country was entangled. so i would say link to our plantation slavery section. >> okay. last lightning-round question. we have five minutes left. who's your favorite other presidential family, presidential story, that you don't study? what's out there, like, if it shows up on the history channel some night or you're flipping through the pages, say, yeah, that's the president and
presidential family i want to spend some time with. >> i've been lucky. i started out with the adams and they're always fun then i was with the madison family and then the adams. but, yes, i actually would be really interested in michelle obama. so i'd be really kind of compe compelled by that. >> i wish i had met betty ford. i'd like to learn more about lincoln. i've never worked on lincoln. >> and i would like to make a shout-out to the audience, the woman who wrote about the tyler family. you had a woman who switched from being a northerner to a defender of slavery. how did that happen? i'd like to learn more about the tylers. >> i'd have to say fdr and eleanor. absolutely. not only for the long reign but the populist issues they dealt with that had a lot to do with jefferson's legacy. >> that's great. last one. >> you said that two ago.
>> you guys were so quick through that one, we still have three. what does keep you up at night? >> gosh. as a president, i'm responsible for a 13-million-item collection and a 50-person staff -- actually, reverse that order -- and the building, last of all. what i worry about is what the future looks like. i have to keep everybody safe, i have to keep everybody contained, but i wonder what the future of the library looks like. and i was saying to my board that i think that in no other generation, except for our founders in 1791, have we been poised on this era of change. so i would like to say that if people from the 1950s came to the mhs, and some of them still do, they would recognize what we do. they would wonder who the broad was in the president's office, but they would recognize researchers.
they would even recognize children. but in 50 years, what is that library going to look like and how can we help the massachusetts historical society get ready for that future? >> i'm lucky. i sleep pretty well. but during the day i worry about the death of the presidential library system. i admire many things that president obama did, but i think he made a big mistake in the way in which he has managed his presidential library center. one of the things that we attempted to do in 2006 when it became clear that the national archives would acquire the private nixon library was that we were hoping that by the way in which we transformed a private partisan library into a federal nonpartisan library, we might actually gently encourage other presidential libraries to shift away from the shrines that
they had become. this was an understanding that those of us who were involved in this process had. it wasn't going to be forced on them, but the hope was that they might actually benefit from our example. i can't tell you how moved i am that we could have had an effect on monticello. i wish we had had that effect on other presidential libraries. and president obama's decision that his private foundation would run the museum, i'm afraid, put a stake in the heart of what we were trying to do. because what we wanted was to prove that a federal -- federal -- library could be nonpartisan. that in our era, we are not so partisan that our federal government -- sorry, i don't mean to be on a soap box, but you asked me what makes me -- and he is now opening the door for every subsequent president
to have a prifrt vate museum wh means all those benefits those kids in yorba linda, some in orange county, get from going to a nonpartisan library won't be possible. in the future, all those kids are going to go to these partisan shrines that are just going to keep repeating the nonsense about our past that makes it hard to be a citizen. because to be a citizen means to be willing to deal with contradictions and data that isn't always positive and coming up with your own decisions what to do. but if we let presidential libraries become these partisan shrines, we're losing a grand opportunity around this country for civic literacy. so that's what worries me during the day. [ applause ] >> katie? >> i would definitely echo your point. i encountered some of this, myself, already. now when you do research at these presidential libraries,
since ronald reagan, you have to rely on what people have already foiled as well. those are separate from the libraries you're talking about in the future. there's this pattern that the material isn't as widely available as it once was. it's a challenge we're dealing with. i guess what keeps me up at night is, yeah, just wanting to see our field become and continue to become more relevant. i love what you're doing and what you're doing. i'm privileged also of visiting the massachusetts historical society. there was a wonderful exhibit there about these people who lived in i guess south boston, right? they were setting up this community and they were workers and they were, you know, around the time of the adams, but they were average people and they sure drank a lot of wine. let me tell you. those were the wealthy ones. i thought, this really makes the story relevant to all of us, right? these are real people. and the adams, by the way, the adams stories are wonderful because there's great exhibits.
i have to recommend, if you're going to put up pictures of old people, have great captions because it really was quite striking to learn about these people and connect with them. i sleep well, too, so no things really keep me up at night but i'd love to see this room much more in 50 years much more colorful than it is right now. so let's hope we can get more people involved. >> with stewart about to give a plug, your final closing comment on if it doesn't keep you up at night, what is it? what's your biggest concern in question? >> my biggest concern is civic literacy, but more than that, what are we going to look like as a country in 2026? and what is our role in making sure we're doing everything we can to fulfill jefferson's belief that only an educated citizenry can govern itself? >> well, with that , thank you, all, for helping educate all of us at citizens. it's been a real honor for me. thank you. [ applause ] >> thank you very much, bill,
and another extraordinary panel. we now will go to lunch. again, consult your name tag. if it says willard room, that's where you're having lunch. if it says crystal room, that's where you're having lunch. very important. the buses leave to go to the national archives at 1:45. that's leave at 1:45, not board at 1:45. so we have a shorter lunch period today, we have an exciting program at the national archives. enjoy lunch.
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with senators, view farewell speeches from long-serving members and take a tour inside the senate chamber. the old senate chamber. and other exclusive locations. when the new congress takes office in january, it will have the youngest, most diverse freshman class in recent history. "new congress, new leaders," watch it live on c-span starting january 3rd. now a look at efforts to digitize u.s. history. and how to make it more accessible. we'll hear from members of the white house historical association, the national parks service, the smithsonian institution, and the library of congress. it's an hour and 45 minutes. >> all right. so good afternoon, everybody. and welcome back. i'm dr. curtis sandberg, and i serve as the director of the david