The National Archives in Washington, D.C., admitted this week that they altered a large color photograph of the 2017 Women’s March to remove anti-Trump messaging and other words for an exhibit to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage.
President Trump’s name was blurred on signs that read “God Hates Trump” and “Trump & GOP—Hands Off Women.” The Archives also removed the words “vagina” and “pussy” from other signs protesting the newly-elected president.
“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in a statement to the Washington Post.
The decision to blur certain words from the original version of the photograph, taken by Getty Images photographer Mario Tama, was supported by archivist David S. Ferriero who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
News of the altered image prompted swift reactions on Twitter. National Security Advisor under Obama, Susan Rice, called the decision “disturbing.”
The National Archives is now whitewashing history. How disturbing is that?! https://t.co/ms1QvYJQip
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) January 18, 2020
Tennis great and advocate for equality and social justice rights, Billie Jean King, called out the Archives saying their decision to blur parts of the image was a “travesty.”
The erasure of women from moments of historical importance has been going on for hundreds of years. Shame on the @USNatArchives for participating in this travesty. #HistoryMatters https://t.co/fPYBps9jbh
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 18, 2020
Finally, Wendy Kline, a history professor at Purdue University told the Post, “Doctoring a commemorative photograph buys right into the notion that it’s okay to silence women’s voice and actions.” Kline continued, “It is literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera. That’s an attempt to erase a powerful message.”
Update: On Saturday the US National Archives tweeted an apology admitting they’d made a mistake altering the photo.
We made a mistake.
As the National Archives of the United States, we are and have always been completely committed to preserving our archival holdings, without alteration. pic.twitter.com/VTWOS4R7GY
— US National Archives (@USNatArchives) January 18, 2020