June 16, 2021
David S. Ferriero
Archivist of the United States
In my message to you last fall, I announced
the formation of a task force at the National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA) to address racial inequality in both our customer-facing
operations and internally within our workplaces. The group was charged with
identifying areas where we as an agency must improve and making recommendations
for positive change.
As the home of this nation’s founding
documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of
Rights—we have a special responsibility to the ideals that all people are
created equal, that all people have equal protection under the law, and that
there is a common good that includes us all. Although we as a nation have
fallen short at times, these are the goals we aspire to as Americans, for all
Americans, and the ideals that drove the work of the task force.
Our Task Force on Racism, made up of three
teams of NARA employees, began their work in October 2020. The main Task Force
addressed the employee experience, barriers to employment, and race-based
harassment and discrimination; the Subgroup on Archival Description examined
matters relating to anachronistic or offensive terminology that have been used
to describe our historical records; and the Subgroup on Museums examined how we
ensure a diversity of representation, viewpoints, access, and outreach in our
exhibits, education, and public programs.
These team members researched current
conditions within NARA, consulted staff and experts outside the agency, and
developed recommendations for how we can work toward an equitable and inclusive
environment for all employees and customers. The Task Force submitted its final
report in April, recommending a robust series of actions to move the agency
forward on a path toward diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. I
have accepted the recommendations.
On Monday, June 14, 2021, we published the full report [https://www.archives.gov/files/news/archivists-task-force-on-racism-report.pdf]
along with a short summary [https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/recommendations-from-internal-task-force-on-racism] on Archives.gov.
NARA has begun taking the first steps to
implement many of these recommendations, in part through the framework of Executive Order (E.O.) 13985, Advancing Racial
Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which was issued in January 2021 and
outlines a whole-of-government approach to advancing equity and opportunity for
E.O. 13985 requires all federal agencies to
establish an agency Equity Team, actively engage with underrepresented
communities, conduct initial equity assessments of three agency programs by
August 2021, and create an agency Equity Action Plan by January 2022.
The work of the Task Force and its recommendations
have laid the groundwork for our E.O. 13985 equity assessments and Equity
Action Plan, which includes a plan for ongoing meaningful consultation,
engagement, and collaboration with underserved and underrepresented
However, we are not waiting to complete the
assessment before we begin to implement Task Force recommendations.
We made equity the centerpiece of our FY 2022
Congressional budget request. We asked for $20 million to advance racial equity
by digitizing, describing, and providing free online access to our records that
document the history of underserved and underrepresented communities in
America. The budget request provides for 144 new permanent hires, with funds
included to recruit candidates from minority and underrepresented communities
and provide internships.
The budget also includes $3 million for a new
National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grants program
to preserve and digitize the records of the creation of Historically Black
Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
I will charter a Reparative Description
Working Group to develop guidance, standards, and processes relating to
archival description and equity. In addition, we have added an alert to the
National Archives Catalog with a warning about harmful language along with a
statement about NARA’s commitment to addressing harmful legacy descriptions.
We are also pursuing a reimagining of the
Rotunda exhibit in the National Archives Building that embraces the complexity
of the nation’s founding, encourages discussion of our difficult and divided
history, and acknowledges, welcomes, and includes the entirety of “We The
And to ensure that the work of the Task Force
is built into our business processes, NARA is embedding equity considerations
in our agency decision-making, beginning with our 2022–2026 Strategic Plan. We
are using the findings and recommendations of the Task Force to assess our
current status and to ensure that our future plans are inclusive and impactful
to all communities, while supporting and repairing relationships with
NARA leadership and staff are dedicated to
working for meaningful and long-lasting changes for our employees and for the
communities we serve. We look forward to sharing our progress with you as it