The Billy Graham archives are moving to Charlotte, North Carolina from Wheaton College. This blog has deep doubts about the transfer of primary source material to a facility that can’t properly care for it. Also is Franklin Graham planning on censoring history in the process?
“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.”
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
The Treaty of Versailles had crushed Germany after its surrender in World War I. As a result Germany could not meet its financial reparations requirements as the Weimar Republic was politically fragile. As a result the German government defaulted on their loans and the French and Belgian Army moved into the Ruhr Valley on January 11, 1923. The Germans then engaged in passive resistance. During this time Germany started to enter a period of hyperinflation. At its worst a one dollar bill was the equivalent of one trillion Marks. Germans carried around money in wheelbarrows. Or they used it to light fireplaces or kids played with it. The hyperinflation was so high that prices in restaurants climbed even when people ate, or the price of beer would increase substantially while people drank in beer halls. There was also another problem that existed at the time. While the United States was not pursuing reparations from Germany, they did want to be repaid by its Allies as they lent $10 billion. It started to lead to tensions while the Allies will still trying to get the Germans to pay reparations to them. In early 1923 a Chicago banker stepped into the picture and helped put together an economic plan that would resolve both issues. His name was Charles Dawes and his efforts would become the co-recipient of the Peace Prize in 1925. What Charles Dawes had proposed became known as the Dawes Plan. In the Dawes Plan Germany’s reparations would be reduced. As the economy improved the payments would increase. Belgium and France would evacuated the Ruhr Valley and a new German money, called the Reichsmark would be rolled out. Then banks would loan the German government $200 million to help stabilize Weimar Republic. Charles Dawes would go on and serve as the Vice-President of Calvin Coolidge. He lived out his life in Evanston, Illinois. Many of Dawes personal papers ended up at the Northwestern University Archives.
When I was a graduate student of history at Marquette I took a class that required me to write a primary source paper. As it was explained to me I could not lean heavily upon secondary sources in the library. The professor wanted us to get into an archive and learn and work with primary source material. In studying German history I decided to do a paper on Charles Dawes, the Dawes Plan and the economic situation in the Weimar Republic. I decided to do this as the primary source material was in the Special Collections Library at Northwestern University. So I drove down from Milwaukee to Evanston and spent the day working in the archives. Northwestern has a top notch library that stunned me. Their achieves contain many topics important in American history. From the America First movement of isolationism, and German propaganda to documents about slavery in the United States, to correspondence of Walt Whitman. The material was stored in a temperature controlled environment and one of the archivists taught me how to work with the primary source material of Charles Dawes. I had to wear gloves, a pen could not be present and if copies needed to be made, Northwestern would handle that as well. I recall to this day working with a pencil and copies of correspondence by Charles Dawes in trying to understand his writing. I practiced and worked with it and figured out what some of his letters actually meant. I walked away from the experience learning quite a bit about history, research and working with archives.
The Billy Graham Archive is Moving to Charlotte, North Carolina
Having done some research in an archive when I was in graduate school I heard about the plans to move the Billy Graham archive out of Wheaton and to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. The archives at Wheaton contain 3,235 boxes of paper items, 1,000 scrapbooks of news clippings dating back to the 1940s and more than 1,000 linear feet of videos, cassettes, reels, films and audio. Billy Graham Archives were established at Wheaton in 1980, as that is what Billy Graham wanted. He had a long history with Wheaton plus he also graduated from Wheaton in 1943.
Franklin Graham made a decision to move the archives to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. He stated that he wanted to create a first class library. This is what Franklin Graham said to the Religious News Service. “It is the intention of BGEA leadership to provide a first-rate research facility and archival operation with an openness to those who have an interest in studying the life and ministry of my father in the greater context of a Library that clearly demonstrates and reflects the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Many historians are concerned by what is developing and they are worried that Franklin Graham is going to cut off access to the primary source material of Billy Graham. This is suspected due to Franklin’s abject involvement in politics and the image he wants to project. This is what two historians told the Religious News Service.
“Nothing about Franklin’s public persona over the last two decades suggests that he would encourage open scholarly inquiry into the legacy of Billy Graham,” said Steven P. Miller, author of “Billy Graham and the Rise of the Republican South” and one of more than a dozen scholars interviewed by RNS.
Elesha Coffman, a professor of history at Baylor University who writes about religion, agrees.
“The fear is that it’s over, that with the relocation of the archives, there will be no more high-quality, objective scholarship on (Billy) Graham and his legacy,” Coffman said.
It has also been pointed out that the Billy Graham Center in Charlotte, North Carolina does not have an archivists or the means to store sensitive documents and materials like many modern universities do. Is it possible that letters or films could deteriorate and be lost because they are not stored properly? This is a question that I believe needs to be asked. But there is another question that be asked. And this question comes about after once doing graduate level work in history.
Is Franklin Graham Going to Engage in Censorship of History?
The question that must be asked is that following. Is Franklin Graham planning on censoring or attempting to re-write history. For example will he allow scholars and historians to research the following situations with Billy Graham?
- Billy Graham’s association with President Richard Nixon. How Graham reacted when he realized how anti-Semitic Nixon can be? Graham’s involvement with Nixon as Watergate played out?
- Another issue is some of the soul searching Graham did when he say how political he became. Graham because of Nixon actually repented of engaging so deeply in politics and was able to build bridges with many people. Franklin Graham can’t do this because he has moved in the opposite direction and embraced politics. Will Franklin block historians form researching a topic such as that?
In many ways this move of primary source material deeply reminds me of something that could come out of George Orwell. History is re-written, you control the past to preserve the future. These were some of the themes, if i remember correctly that came out of 1984.Is that what Franklin Graham is aiming for?
There is One Topic Franklin Graham Can Do Exceptionally Well – Dishonor His Father’s Memory
But there is another topic that I want to raise that is deeply disturbing as well. I don’t see this being mentioned very much, and its probably the topic on a lot of people’s minds, but many are hesitant to say this. Billy Graham had a long association with Wheaton. He decided to have his papers based there and he was deeply involved in the university. When I think of schools and Billy Graham the first one that comes about in my mind is Wheaton. Now here we are and Franklin is taking the primary source material out of the school.
Recently I had to bury my Mother and Father in California in 2017 and 2018. When it came to making decisions and doing funeral arrangements and more there was one question that I kept going back to in my mind. What would Mom and Dad want? How would they this decision made or what would be in there best interest? As I planned a funeral and made important decisions afterwards that is how I thought.
So here is the question that I want to ask. If Billy Graham wanted his primary source material at Wheaton and that was his desire, then why is Franklin disobeying his father’s wish? Why can’t Franklin honor Billy Graham by keeping the material at Wheaton? If that was the school that Billy Graham respected and associated with why change things? This may seem harsh but the question has to be asked. Cam Franklin honor his father’s memory and his requests in life? Its not as if Wheaton is mishandling the material. Or does this decision come down to finances for Franklin Graham, and is this decision being driven by money? The Billy Graham Center in Charlotte, North Carolina is not ready not prepared for this material. And that I think is a tragedy in the making.