Smithsonian Features Care2 Petitions in American Democracy Exhibit

In 2000, Care2 posted its first petitions online. Nearly two decades later, the website has made it into an exhibition in the Smithsonian.

Care2 petition

The National Museum of American History now displays a Care2 internet petition from the Boys & Girls Club beside a rolled petition created by U.S. Army officers in 1870.

The placement seems fitting, given that online petitions emerged from a rich history of community activism.

rolled petition

 

Western countries earned their right to petition in the 17th century. According to the Smithsonian, the first nationwide movement in the United States sought to stop the feds from removing Cherokee people from their homelands.

Petitions have been a force of change ever since. In particular, they’ve empowered people who haven’t been allowed to have a political voice.

A project at Harvard University digitized thousands of anti-slavery and anti-segregation petitions from 1649 to 1870. They feature signatures from many black abolitionists, as well as first-person accounts from former and current slaves.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, told The Harvard Gazette:

Any handwritten document from African-Americans in the 18th or 19th century is enormously valuable and quite rare. So seeing these signed by black people demanding their full equality and freedom is quite exciting.

As project leader Daniel Carpenter noted, petitioning was a radical public act. Many African Americans couldn’t vote, but they could put their names behind a movement.

Women of any race were in a similar situation. Carpenter described in the Washington Post how young women circulated petitions in record numbers against slavery in the late 1830s.

Carpenter explained that petitions have historically ushered in more people to support a cause. And this continues today.

Museum of American History

Petitions collect valuable contact information for organizers, so they can get in touch with signers for further action. They also empower people to become more politically involved.

For instance, one study suggests that people who sign popular petitions are more likely to vote.

Online petitions rose in popularity in early 2000. And former President Barack Obama opened the White House’s own online petition platform in September 2011.

Care2, one of the original online petition websites, has gathered millions of signatures — and counting.

And if you want to make a difference on an issue you care about, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

55 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you!

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Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago

ty

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Angela J
Angela J9 months ago

Thanks

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie9 months ago

Thank you so very much.

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O9 months ago

I think that Maureen G and Sue H have covered all I wanted to say but very pleased to know that petitions can a do work for change.

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Maureen G
Maureen G9 months ago

I agree with Sue H who wrote "Very cool! Petitions only work if they actually get delivered though. Care2 could do a better job of making sure petitions have a valid Target and author. Follow up letting us know that petitions have been delivered would be a good thing as well."

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Ann B
Ann B9 months ago

it will be seen there

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