News Article

National Archives Foundation Hosts History Speaks––A Program on Race and Justice with Soledad O’Brien, Taylor Branch, Ibram Kendi and Wesley Lowery

October 2, 2020

On Wednesday, October 6 and 7:00 p.m. ET, the National Archives Foundation will host an expert panel discussion exploring the story of racism in America through National Archives records and how our past is important to understanding the social justice and equity issues of today. The virtual panel discussion will be moderated by National Archives Foundation board member and award-winning journalist, Soledad O’brien. Panelists will include Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, anti-racism scholar and author Ibram Kendi and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wesley Lowery. 

Proceeds from the program will support the launch of the National Archives Foundation’s Rights and Justice Fund. The fund will provide resources for research, public programs, exhibitions and educational materials focused on the stories of African Americans and people of color, as found in the records of the National Archives. 

“The National Archives is brimming with stories of African Americans and minorities fighting for equal rights throughout history––records from our past that bring today’s quest for justice and fight for equality into sharp focus,” James J. Blanchard, Chair and President of the National Archives Foundation said. “These stories need to be told and the time to have these critical conversations is now.” 

“The assertion that ‘all men are created equal’ has yet to be fully realized. As the guardians of our nation’s history, we are all too aware of this reality. For this reason, we have and continue to document and discuss the continuing struggle for civil rights for African Americans and others, including in the ‘Bending Towards Justice’ section of our David M. Rubenstein Gallery’s Records of Rights exhibit,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “However, the events of the past few months dramatically underscore that it is not enough to document, discuss, and merely ‘bend’ towards justice; if conversation is unaccompanied by action and concrete steps for improvement, the catharsis will ultimately be short-lived. 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.”

“When I was sworn in as Archivist of the United States, I included in my remarks a quote from FDR that rings true now more than ever. He said that to create a national archives, ‘a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future…’  The ongoing movement for racial justice offers hope that our country can indeed learn from our past and that together, ‘We The People’ can strive to build a better future and more perfect union,”  Ferriero said.

Tickets to the program can be purchased at Select members of the media will receive comp tickets on a first come, first served basis. 

This History Speaks event is supported by the generosity of its Presenting Sponsors: The Boeing Company, John and Christie Johnson, Jacqueline B. Mars, and NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. Additional sponsor support is provided by Governor James J. Blanchard and Janet Blanchard, DLA Piper LLC (US), Marilynn Wood Hill and John A. Hill, Mary C. Moynihan, Lucinda Robb, Deborah Ratner Salzberg and Michael Salzberg, Tom and Carol Wheeler, Ambassador Fay Hartog-Levin, Ken Burns, Laura D. Gates, David S. Ferriero, Fruzsina M. Harsanyi, Al Kamen, Cameron F. Kerry, Maarja Krusten, William H. Minor, and Ross O. Swimmer.


About the National Archives Foundation

National Archives Foundation is an independent nonprofit that increases public awareness of the National Archives, inspires a deeper appreciation of our country’s heritage, and encourages citizen engagement in our democracy. The Foundation generates financial and creative support for National Archives exhibitions, public programs and educational initiatives, introducing America’s records to people around the U.S. and the world. Learn more at

About the Speakers 

Soledad O’Brien is an award-winning journalist, speaker, author and philanthropist who anchors and produces the Hearst Television political magazine program “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien.” O’Brien, founder and CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions, also reports for HBO Real Sports, the PBS NewsHour, WebMD and has authored two books. She has appeared on networks, Fox and Oxygen and anchored and reported for NBC, MSNBC and CNN. She has won numerous awards, including three Emmys, the George Peabody award, an Alfred I DuPont prize and the Gracie. Newsweek Magazine named her one of the “15 People Who Make America Great.” With her husband, she is founder of the PowHERful  Foundation that helps young women get to and through college. 

Taylor Branch is an American author and public speaker best known for his landmark narrative history of the civil rights era, America in the King Years. The trilogy’s first book, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous other awards in 1989. Two successive volumes also gained critical and popular success: Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65, and At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968. Decades later, all three books remain in demand. Some reviewers have compared the King-era trilogy, which required more than twenty-four years of intensive research, with epic histories such as Shelby Foote’s The Civil War and Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson.

Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News correspondent. He is the author of many books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, and three #1 New York Times bestsellers, How to Be an Antiracist; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. 

Wesley Lowery is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who is currently a correspondent for “60 in 6,” a 60 Minutes spinoff on the mobile app Quibi. Lowery was previously a national correspondent at the Washington Post, specializing in issues of race and law enforcement. He led the team awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2016 for the creation and analysis of a real-time database to track fatal police shootings in the United States. His most recent project, Murder With Impunity, an unprecedented look at unsolved homicides in major American cities, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019. His first book, They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement, was a New York Times bestseller and was awarded the Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose by the LA Times Book Prizes.