Has a chapter of history ever opened with such a diversity of views as happened in New York City at the start of World War II? Our 2012-2013 major history show, WWII & NYC, calls it “The War of Opinions,” demonstrating the intense engagement of many New Yorkers in the war abroad as well as their national influence, with objects including the 1939 Medals of Dishonor by the sculptor David Smith, the first issue of the Nazi-fighter Captain America comic book, photographs of the Nazi Bund rallies at Madison Square Garden, and materials about “Bundles for Britain.” At this early stage there was no consensus for US involvement and no agreement on which of the combatants to support, so our wall of art, photos, posters, and leaflets conveys a cacophony of opinion, showing the range of rescue and relief efforts, fascist and anti-fascist organizations, and interventionist and non-interventionist groups that all operated in New York City and vied for public attention.
It is thanks to your great and generous support that we mount WWII & NYC this year, and that we are able to invite hundreds of thousands of New York City public schoolchildren to visit “The War of Opinions.” An understanding of how diverse our city has always been—in population as well as opinion—allows these young New Yorkers to better appreciate how quickly a consensus emerged when our nation came under attack. We think this is an important lesson for young people today and thank you for allowing us to teach it. We thank you also for helping us to secure our thrilling place of privilege as New York’s destination for history and its locus for debate and discussion around our American story.
I wish you the best in the New Year.