In a continuous effort to associate the aesthetic of freedom with its tyrannical organization, Moms For Liberty (M4L) pinned one of the most historical cities in the U.S., Philadelphia, as the location for its second annual national conference. While it appears The Marriott will hold a significant portion of the conference (more on that below), the Museum of the American Revolution (MAR) is catching well-deserved heat for the part they’re playing.
The extremist group is hosting the start of their three-day conference at the museum on June 29. This backlash from MAR’s host choice isn’t just from patrons and guests. It also comes from peers in the museum field, employees, and contract workers.
Refresher on Moms for “Liberty”
For those that need a refresher, M4L is the biggest of a handful of “parental rights groups” in the news over the past two years. For every dozen ultra-nationalist, influential men, a career-minded mother adds a softened veneer to the white supremacists’ causes. The Phyllis Schlaflys, Anita Bryants, and—in fiction—Serena Joys. That’s M4L.
Not every human is deserving of my child’s empathy.
— one of many actual statements made publically by Moms For Liberty
Most people associate them with book bans/challenges and bizarre podium scenes that rival Parks and Recreation. Beyond the attempt to erase non-white, non-cis history and empty libraries in the name of “child safety,” many group members (including chapter leaders) have been caught harassing teachers, librarians, and others in education. This includes doxxing people, setting teacher bounties, and threatening to kill educators. One M4L member in Pennsylvania was found guilty of harassment after she logged into an anti-M4L person’s Facebook account. She messaged death threats to the account’s contacts, including children.
We’ve covered some of these actions in Pennsylvania, events like the student resistance that resulted in Central York students being invited to testify in front of Congress. (Ruby Bridges also attended since M4L chapters nationwide went after her children’s book.) After all, the state holds the highest membership of the organization. However, this is a statewide and nationwide issue. Horrified by this decision to host, many members of this museum’s community are fighting back.
Muesums are not nuetral
The Philidelphia Inquirer found over a third of the MAR’s staff have signed an internal petition against hosting this M4L event. Many expressed disgust at the museum’s top staff and board for working with a group whose values contradict the institution. This includes frustration about how it rolls back the progress made in the last few years to make MAR more inclusive and accessible.
For example, MAR’s website visitors are met with an exhibition of the Fortens. The Black family is one of the city’s/nation’s founding Black families and abolitionists. This exhibit is the type of thing M4L has called indoctrination and “CRT.” If it were in book form, then the group would pass it around the country as a book to be removed in schools and public libraries.
So far, MAR has attempted to distance itself from accountability by claiming this is a learning opportunity for M4L. However, the group isn’t there to learn. This isn’t a private tour or presentation by MAR for M4L. The museum is just making a quick buck as rentals make up a fraction in their yearly operating revenue. Meanwhile, M4L’s fascist values get further normalized, and their event gets prestige and legitimacy from an authoritative institution. When asked if they would host the Proud Boys, they told staff and The Philidelphia Inquirer, “no.” The multiple ties M4L have to the Proud Boys isn’t enough to say “no” to them, apparently.
Historical centers (and degrees) have a special power for attracting very conservative people and values. This is regardless of their mission statements and values. This is, in part, because reverence for history and the past often align with the desire to maintain the status quo, regardless of harm. It is a core value of conservatism. Holding part of the conference there—a conference with speakers that include former president Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, among others—lends credibility to their influence and power. That includes their (and M4L) proclivity to misrepresent the past and present—something museums are actively fighting against.
Historical interpreters and others protest
Staff is limited in how they can protest. However, others—like interpreters—have a little bit more flexibility. These people lead conversations about the lesser-explored elements of Black American history from the 1600s to the 1800s. Museums work with interpreters to understand and communicate information in their collections to the wider public. Sometimes this is public-facing things like lectures, tours, demonstrations, etc. or behind closed doors like writing and research. This is similar to a science communicator, but with more hands-on elements.
A number of Black Historical Interpreters signed an open letter against MAR’s decision to host M4L. They are severing ties and encouraging others to do the same. Some you may recognize from Tiktok, or other places, names like Cheyney McKnight (Not Your Momma’s History), Joel Cook, Marvin-Alonzo Greer, Daryian Kelton, and Hugh Goffinet. These interpreters are people with active relationships with MAR, and the time couldn’t be worst for the institution—tourists flock to this district in the summer, especially for the 4th of July.
@notyourmommashistory This action was taken along with a group of Black Historical Interpreters: Marvin Greer @Marvin-Alonzo Greer, Joel Cook @Joel, Daryian Kelton @Daryian Kelton, Hugh Goffinet. We encourage others to join us in this boycott. I encourage you all to donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center @SPLC ♬ original sound – NotYourMommasHistory
It’s not just MAR, but other hosting organizations. Philadelphia’s Galaei is leading protests at the Philadelphia Marriott hotel under #StopHostingHate. The Marriott hotel looks like the centerpiece of the national convention, while MAR is one location for one event. At least one petition calling for the contract to end sits at over 27,000 signatures. No amount of rainbow washing or PRIDE sponsorships will erase the damage groups like M4L has done to the LGBTQ+ community and people of color. (Or the various bigoted politicians Marriott bankrolls.)
History museums have a huge issue attracting white supremacists—especially ones focused on American history and “The West.” If they are committed to correcting thier own issues, and educating the public, then they should start by separating themselves from organizations like M4L, looking to erase history and promote genocide—if for no other reason than museums should act in self-perseverance. Public schools and libraries are not the only types of institutions that will get defunded and attacked by censorship in the name of “liberty.”
(via @notyourmommashistory on TikTok, featured image: Photo courtesy of UploadWizard, image remixed by Alyssa Shotwell)
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