Wednesday 16 Mar, 2011

James Madison and the Freedom of Information

James Madison. Waist length, seated. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart., 1935 – 1939, National Archives

Today is the anniversary James Madison’s birthday. You may recall, Madison was the fourth president of the U.S., a significant contributor to the writing and ratification of the Constitution and instrumental in the formation of the Bill of Rights.

Because of Madison’s contributions to the First Amendment, his birthday has become a day to recognize the freedoms that the First Amendment guarantees. It was in the 1970s when March 16 became a day to recognize the role access to information plays in a democracy. So Madison’s birthday is now also National Freedom of Information (FOI) Day.

Today the Newseum is hosting the 13th Annual National FOI Day Conference. At the conference, the American Library Association presented the James Madison Award to “an individual or group that has brought awareness to these issues at the national level.” Members will also be inducted into the FOI Hall of Fame of which Madison is a member. (At the time of the posting a press release about the winners and inductees was not available. Check back for an update!)

The Newseum is a favorite stop of EF Explore America groups to Washington, D.C. Groups also see the originial Constitution and Bill of Rights at the National Archives. Learn more about trips to Washington, D.C.

Bonus: Get in the spirit of Freedom of Information Day and play the “Ray of Sunshine” game. (Laws that help give citizens access to records and other information are often called Sunshine laws.)

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