July 23, 2002
Prologue Examines Impact of Race in Immigration Policy; Archivist Describes New "National Archives Experience"
College Park, MD. . . U.S. laws governing immigration and naturalization, and their enforcement, have had a long and complicated history, and they remain controversial even today.
In a special article in the Summer issue of Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Marian L. Smith, senior historian for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, examines the history of how immigration and naturalization laws were drafted in Congress and how they were enforced.
In "Race, Nationality, and Reality: INS Administration of Racial Provisions in US Immigration and Nationality Law Since 1898," Smith writes that although the US Supreme Court declared in the 1920s that Americans had a "common understanding" on racial and ethnicity matters, the issue was not settled.
"Despite Supreme Court pronouncements, federal officials charged with administration of US immigration and nationality laws were keenly aware that not all Americans shared the same understanding at any given time," Smith writes. "More important, any 'common understanding' of race or ethnicity shared by a majority of Americans society evolved over time, while the law remained locked in eighteenth-century language."
In his regular column, John W. Carlin, Archivist of the United States, describes the "National Archives Experience," which is planned for the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, after the renovation there is complete in 2004. The "National Archives Experience" will be a "collection of interactive experiences" in multi-media exhibits that will give visitors a close-up look at some of the milestone documents in the Archives that chronicle history of the nation and its citizens.
In the "National Archives Experience," Carlin writes, "visitors will soon realize that they have not just been given behind-the-scenes access to the National Archives, but they are now inside the past and able to glimpse the very heart of American government."
You can view selected articles
from the Winter 2001 Prologue
and past issues at its web
The Summer Prologue also contains an article by James I. Matray, professor of history at California State University, Chico, that explores some of the accepted history of the Korean War in "Revisiting Korea: Exposing Myths of the Forgotten War." In it, Matray writes: "While the resolution of some issues awaits the release of more archival material, historians have exposed enough myths about Korea that no longer does it warrant description as the forgotten war."
In "Nazi Looted Art: The Holocaust Records Preservation Project," Anne Rothfeld, an archivist with the National Archives Holocaust Records Project, writes: "Despite the tireless efforts of Allied military and civilian agencies, hundreds of confiscated artworks were never recovered and returned to their rightful owners. The vast volume of documentation left behind by the Nazis and Allied agencies, however, allows these efforts to continue."
John Martini, a retired National Park Service ranger who has published several books about West Coast military history, writes an article for this issue on J.D. Givens, a photographer, who chronicled life in California in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The history of the Freedman's Bureau, established after the Civil War to help emancipated slaves in their transition to freedom, and the National Archives efforts to preserve the records of the Bureau and make them available is described in "The Freedmen's Bureau Preservation Project." Those records are considered important links for African Americans in learning about their family histories. The article is written by Reginald Washington, a National Archives specialist in African American genealogy records.
For more than 30 years, Prologue has shared with readers the rich resources and programs of the National Archives, its regional archives, and the Presidential libraries. The Washington Post said, "Prologue . . . can be regarded quite literally as an invitation for further study. It is also consistently absorbing reading."
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