The Entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Just Resigned

The committee, which includes author Jhumpa Lahiri, sent a coded message in its resignation letter

Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri (Photo by Internaz on Flickr)
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.

Citing the president’s unwillingness to unequivocally condemn white supremacists and Nazis, all 17 members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned en masse. The advisory committee, appointed by President Obama, hasn’t met under Trump, perhaps because he is actively hostile to their work. (Honorary chair Melania Trump, who did not sign the letter of resignation, also doesn’t seem very motivated by art; we’ll refrain from speculating on what she is motivated by.) But it’s continued work on preexisting projects—until today.

“Art is about inclusion,” wrote the committee, which includes artist Chuck Close and author Jhumpa Lahiri. “The Humanities include a vibrant free press. You have attacked both.” This is the first official White House committee to resign.

Here’s the letter:

The Obama-appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities already resigned months ago—the gutting of the NEH budget was sufficient for him to assess the environment as hostile, even without the administration explicitly condoning violent white nationalism. Go figure that a humanities expert would be able to read the writing on the wall.

So much for the “at least art will flourish under oppression” crowd, I guess. But hey: The first letter of each paragraph spells out RESIST. Poetry, specifically the acrostic, isn’t dead—yet.

More Like This

Mixing Politics and Sex with the Diplomat Next Door

"Mini Apple" by Mira Sethi, recommended by Farah Ali

Apr 14 - Mira Sethi

How Political Revolutions Spark Literary Revolutions

Fifty years before Black Lives Matter led to a push for more representation in literature, the Cuban Revolution led to the Latin American Boom

Jan 27 - Arvind Dilawar

All These Houses Full of Opinions

Two poems by Emily Bludworth de Barrios

Jan 18 - Emily Bludworth de Barrios
Thank You!