National Archives has contest for top 100 historical papers
ARLINGTON, Va. — Calling all trivia buffs! For 100 bonus points, answer this: What was the Platt Amendment of 1903?
Americans who were really paying attention during their U.S. history classes will remember that Platt was a treaty between the United States and Cuba to protect Cuba’s independence from foreign intervention.
The amendment may be obscure, but without it, the United States would never have been able to preserve its military installation at Guantanamo Bay after Castro took power — which means the Bush administration would have to find another place to detain captured Taliban and al-Qaida members.
The Platt Amendment is one of 100 milestone documents chosen by historians and National Archives officials for their project The People’s Vote: 100 Documents That Shaped America.
The Web-based contest asks voters to whittle down a list of 100 historic documents to select the 10 they believe have been the most instrumental in shaping the course of American history.
Some of the documents on the list are obvious, such as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Other papers, however, are obscure enough to stump all but the most enthusiastic U.S. history buffs, such as the 1862 Morrill Act, which made it possible for new western states to establish colleges for their citizens.
Many of the documents involve military issues, including The Declaration of War Against Germany, 1917; Eisenhower’s Order of the Day, June 6, 1944; The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, 1944; The Surrender of Germany, 1945; The Surrender of Japan; and Executive Order 9981, Desegregating the Armed Forces, 1948.
To help readers understand what they’re looking at, National Archives officials have designed an interactive Web site that offers images of the actual documents, their texts, background information, and even tools to help teachers who want to use the contest in the classroom.
The voting period began September 17, and ends on Dec. 1. Officials plan to announce the results of the vote in a ceremony in the National Archives Rotunda on December 15, which is Bill of Rights Day.