About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for The Declaration of Independence and Diversity: Then and Now

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual panel discussion on “The Declaration of Independence and Diversity: Then and Now.” Our very special guests are Edna Greene Medford, Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Rosemarie Zagarri, and Woody Holton.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to let you know about some upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

* * *

We invite you to join the National Archives on Sunday for its traditional Fourth of July program—both in person and online. We’ll have our traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence, a variety of educational and family-friendly programs, and more. The full schedule can be found online at ArchivesJuly4.org.

And on Tuesday, July 6, at noon, Zachary M. Schrag will tell us about his new book, The Fires of Philadelphia, a study of anti-immigrant riots in 1844 Philadelphia.

* * *

On Sunday—July 4th—we will commemorate the 245th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress. Across the nation, people will celebrate the birth of the United States, and over the holiday weekend, thousands of visitors will come to the recently reopened National Archives Rotunda to view the original Declaration.

One of the most famous phrases in the Declaration is the assertion that “all men are created equal.” At the time of its writing, the word “all” did not include women, enslaved persons, or Indigenous peoples, and even today, the promise has yet to be fully realized.

Those words, however, have a universal quality that have inspired Americans throughout our history and encouraged us to strive toward freedom and justice for all.

Today’s panel will discuss important questions such as: What was diversity like in 1776, and who made up our country during that time? How did it affect the Founders and the writing of the Declaration of Independence? And how do the ideals and words of the Declaration relate to issues of race, gender, and diversity today?

* * *

Our moderator for tonight’s discussion is Dr. Edna Greene Medford. Dr. Medford is a professor of history at Howard University who specializes in 19th-century African American history. She has degrees from Hampton University and the University of Illinois and holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Maryland. She served as chair of the Department of History of Howard University for nearly eight years, and in July 2018, she became the Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of Howard University. She is the author of Lincoln and Emancipation and co-author of The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views. She compiled and wrote the introductions to The Price of Freedom: Slavery and the Civil War.

Now let’s hear from Dr. Medford and the panel. Thank you for joining us today.