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Society of American Archivists Article "...all men created equal"

June 2020

In the midst of the current national outcry against racial injustice sparked by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and others, we in the historical community recognize today’s call for change as only the most recent in the long struggle to fully realize our nation’s founding ideals. As the home of the Charters of Freedom, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a special responsibility to those ideals, which are encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

Soon it will be July 4, and with the celebration of Independence Day, we will recall the familiar words of the Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The assertion that “all men are created equal” has yet to be fully realized, of which we, as the guardians of our nation’s history, are all too aware. The ongoing movement for racial justice gives us hope, however, that we can approach fulfillment of that national promise. We must turn our shock, anguish, anger, and fear into strength so that we can, as a community and a country, begin to heal, and seek out real and lasting solutions to systemic problems that must no longer be a part of the fabric of our nation.

At NARA, we have held an open discussion about diversity and inclusion in our workplace, and over the coming weeks we will have additional discussions, listening sessions, and other means of open dialogue that will lead us to clear, ambitious, and achievable actions. 

Talking and listening can be cathartic, but if conversation is unaccompanied by action and concrete steps for improvement, the catharsis will ultimately be short-lived. We owe it to ourselves and the public to take action toward racial equity and justice in how we engage with both the public and the people in our own workplaces. We will treat this as a moment in history to reflect on who we are and how we can become a better agency. 

I remain convinced that there is more that unites us than divides us and that, with unflinching and sustained commitment, we can move closer to the ideals of our democracy, as laid before us in the Charters of Freedom.