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Historians Condemn Philly Museum for Hosting Right-Wing Moms for Liberty Event

Moms for Liberty aims “to obstruct the professional responsibilities of historians,” one historians’ group said.

Jennifer Pippin, president of the Indian River County chapter of Moms for freedom, attends Jacqueline Rosario's campaign event in Vero Beach, Florida, on October 16, 2022.

Scholarly groups and historians’ associations are speaking out against the Museum of the American Revolution (MAR), based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for agreeing to rent space this weekend to the far right organization Moms for Liberty.

Moms for Liberty — which is recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a hate group — pushes book bans in schools and libraries on titles that have LGBTQ themes or that teach the history of slavery and racism in the United States. The group also attacks schools that have inclusive policies, targeting districts that allow trans students to be addressed by their proper names and pronouns, for example.

According to the SPLC website, the group has loose ties to the Proud Boys, as Moms for Liberty members have appeared at various functions with the far right, white nationalist organization and posed in pictures with their members.

Moms for Liberty rented space at MAR this weekend for a four-day “Joyful Warriors National Summit”, which starts on Thursday. Featured speakers at the event include former President Donald Trump and Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, GOP presidential candidates who have expressed authoritarian and proto-fascist beliefs that have also been adopted by Moms for Liberty.

A coalition of several groups in the Philadelphia area is planning protests for each of the four days that Moms for Liberty will be holding its summit. (A list of some planned protests can be found here.)

MAR said in a statement that it agreed to let the organization rent the space because it “strives to create an inclusive and accessible museum experience for visitors with a wide range of viewpoints and beliefs.”

In response, the American Historical Association (AHA), one of the various organizations speaking out against the event, wrote in a letter that MAR’s actions are antithetical to its mission as a historical institution.

“The MAR is a museum dedicated to professional historical work and the AHA is an organization of historians; Moms for Liberty is an organization that has vigorously advocated censorship and harassment of history teachers, banning history books from libraries and classrooms, and legislation that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties,” AHA said in its statement.

Partisan beliefs played no part in AHA’s request for MAR to find a legal way to cancel Moms for Liberty’s event, the group said. “Moms for Liberty has every right to argue for an approach to history education with which we disagree. However, Moms for Liberty has crossed a boundary in its attempts to silence and harass teachers, rather than participate in legitimate controversy.”

“This isn’t about politics or different understandings of our nation’s past; it’s about an organization whose mission is to obstruct the professional responsibilities of historians,” the group added.

Other groups that have condemned the event include the Organization of American Historians, the National Council on Public History, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Committee on LGBTQ History.

Moms for Liberty “consistently spreads harmful, hateful rhetoric about the LGBTQIA+ community, including popularizing the use of the term ‘groomer’ to refer to queer people and attacking the mere existence of trans youth,” a statement from the Committee on LGBTQ History said. “Giving Moms for Liberty a space to share their extremist, anti-LGBTQIA rhetoric is irresponsible and dangerous.”

Jen Manion, a professor of history and sexuality and women’s and gender studies at Amherst College, also decried the decision to allow Moms for Liberty to rent the museum, writing in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed that MAR “claims an affinity with America’s founding, yet they have failed this test in historical symbolism.”

“Revolutionary Philadelphia was at the forefront of scientific inquiry, education, publishing, medicine, and government — all things that Moms for Liberty lobbies against,” Manion said.

The historian also noted that LGBTQ people played an overlooked role in the history of the U.S. at the time of the American Revolution — a role that Moms for Liberty would likely dismiss or seek to censor.

“People in early America experienced same-sex love and relationships, expressed themselves through drag, and changed their gender identity,” Manion wrote.

“The Museum of the American Revolution has a responsibility to defend the history and practice of American democracy, not harbor those who seek to destroy it,” Manion added.

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