In July 2020, we facilitated workshops at the Finding Freedom Summer Teacher Institute hosted by the Museum of the American Revolution. Our sessions focused on developing antiracist work in our classrooms and schools. We led a session titled “Talking about Race in the Classroom.”
We find it disconcerting that museum leadership is now renting space to Moms for Liberty, an organization working to ban the teaching of these topics in our schools.
This is not a way to strengthen our democracy through dialogue, as museum leadership told The Inquirer. The museum’s own staff has spoken out against the visit.
Moms for Liberty has been labeled an “anti-government extremist” organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center. While advocating for what they term “parental rights,” members have espoused separate classrooms for LGBTQ+ students, reportedly accused teachers of being “pedophile sympathizers,” and put bounties on educators who give lessons on “divisive concepts” — such as the existence of racism.
The organization is perhaps best known for its work banning books, including texts about Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., and many more. Their perspective is one that erases whole groups from the history of our country.
We are proud of the School District of Philadelphia’s record of leading the way in creating inclusive curriculum and policy. In 2005, Philly became the first big city in the country to make African American History a graduation requirement for students. In 2016, the School District implemented Policy 252, a groundbreaking set of guidelines to make our schools more welcoming and supportive for LGBTQ+ students.
Moms for Liberty advocates policies that run directly counter to this vision, and the organization shouldn’t be welcome in our city.
The question is, what is the real goal and mission of the Museum of the American Revolution, which opened its doors in Old City to great fanfare in 2017? Does it welcome our queer, Black, and brown students? Would it keep them safe if we brought our classes there? Allowing Moms for Liberty to use its space makes us question whether bringing our students to this venue would be appropriate. And whether we should work with the museum in the future.
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Museums, historians, and history teachers serve a critical societal purpose: to give context to our current world and to help us understand how we got here. As James Baldwin said, “The past is all that makes the present coherent.”
It seems clear to us that the goal of Moms for Liberty is to hide history so fewer people have the factual context to fully understand our current society. Among other things, the group does not want children to learn about the layers of our racist past, which helped create our racist present. It is anti-history.
When historical truth is under attack, museums cannot stay silent.
Nearly 45% of LGBTQ+ youth in Pennslyvania considered suicide in 2022, according to The Trevor Project. Yet there have been reports of Moms for Liberty members planning to target Free Library Pride events while they are in Philadelphia. Is this something the museum wants to welcome to our city?
We stand in solidarity with museum staff as they demand Museum of the American Revolution leadership cancel this visit. If the museum hopes to be a part of our inclusive community, we think they should listen.