About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for "Slavery and the Constitutional Convention"

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 program, which explores the topic of “Slavery and the Constitutional Convention.”

Before we begin, I’d like to tell you about two programs you can view later this month on our YouTube channel.

On Friday, October 22, at noon, NASA astronaut Nicole Stott will discuss her work on the International Space Station and share insights from scientists, activists, and changemakers who are working to solve our greatest environmental challenges. Her new book is Back to Earth.

And on Wednesday, October 27, at 1 p.m., Nathaniel Philbrick will discuss Travels with George, his new book that recounts his own modern-day journey based on George Washington’s Presidential excursions.

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October is American Archives month. What better way to celebrate our documentary past than to discuss one of our founding documents—the U.S. Constitution.

In today’s program, “Slavery and the Constitutional Convention,” you will hear from constitutional experts and see clips from a new documentary series called Confounding Father: A Contrarian View of the U.S. Constitution.

This series combines historical film clips with commentary from constitutional scholars. These experts discuss the 1787 debates in the Constitutional Convention, the compromises made, and present-day controversies around the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Dozens of educational films from the motion picture holdings of the National Archives appear throughout the series. Many of these are Cold War–era films from the vast U.S. Information Agency collection. The beginning of Confounding Father may look familiar to many of you—the camera follows tourists into the Rotunda in a 1953 film made by the Air Force titled Your National Archives.

The documentary also highlights “confounding father” Luther Martin of Maryland—who opposed ratification of the Constitution. Martin is one of the 25 key figures of the Constitutional Convention depicted in a mural in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Today’s program is part one of this discussion. Part two, called “Antifederalists and the Bill of Rights,” will be in December.

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And now it is my honor to welcome our distinguished panel:

Our moderator, Richard Hall, recently retired after a 30-year career with C-SPAN and is the director and co-producer of the four-part series, Confounding Father: A Contrarian View of the U.S. Constitution.

Joining hm today are panelists:

Paul Finkelman, chancellor of Gratz College in greater Philadelphia and author of Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson,


Gloria Browne-Marshall, a professor of constitutional law at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of The Constitution: Major Cases and Conflicts.

Now let’s hear from our panel. Thank you for joining us today.