Special Message for the 4th of July, 2020
Christopher Goodwin, Ph.D.
President & CEO
These are difficult times for us individually, as a corporate family and for our Nation. We continue to struggle with the Coronavirus pandemic, which now is impacting every corner of our country. Yesterday, over 50,000 new cases were recorded. At the same time, the recent killings of black Americans, including George Floyd, have sparked national outrage and called attention to decades and centuries of inequality. This timing coincided with the anniversary of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, as well as with the 51stanniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising. As professional stewards of American heritage and of the tenets and principles of American history, I ask each of you to reflect this 4th of July on our special role as a company, as well as our individual responsibilities to our Nation.
Fully 244 years ago at the birth of these United States, our Founders wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 Declaration of Independence ends with a stirring call to action: “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” As a company, our stated Mission is to provide Stewardship and Leadership in preservation, to enhance understanding of and provide appreciation of our past. Our Guiding and Operational Principles include Integrity, Honesty and Respect. Today I ask all of you to reflect upon the words of our Founders and upon our mission as stewards of American Heritage, and to redouble our efforts to help “forge a more perfect Union.” We have much to contribute.
As anthropologists, archaeologists, architectural historians and historians, we have had the honor and opportunity to study the panoply of American history. We have a special perspective. From our studies of plantations in the Deep South including slave quarters and African America cemeteries throughout Louisiana’s River Parishes, to our work at the Benjamin Banneker House in Baltimore County, to our recent documentary on the African American Jim Crow era Club Desire in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, to large excavations of immigrant communities in some of America’s greatest cities, we have had the unique opportunity to touch, feel and learn about our heritage. Through our excavations in Lower Mid-City New Orleans and in Baltimore’s Camden Yards, we have learned about our unique immigrant heritage and the process of acculturation and Americanization. We have seen first-hand what the playwright Israel Zangwill in 1908 called the American Melting Pot, and through the material remains of our ancestors we have discerned the process of Americanization. We have seen how immigrants became fully Americanized in a single generation, contributing mightily to the strength and diversity of our country. In New Orleans, we have observed archaeologically and historically the birth of a neighborhood settled by Free People of Color, Emancipated Slaves and Immigrants from Cuba, Haiti, Ireland, Italy, Germany and other European countries. All of those people, including the first generation descendants of slaves, were working Americans who shared common aspirations for economic opportunity and decent lives for their families. As elsewhere across this country, they literally helped to build America. Through our work, we give voice to the untold stories of lives otherwise unrecorded in written history. We are their chroniclers.
As such, we have a special responsibility to their memory. We also have a special responsibility to assume a role of leadership in telling their story.
In the aftermath of recent killings of black Americans and the calls for Justice and Equality that have ensued, let us reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principles of fairness, accountability and a system that treats all with Equal Justice. On this 4th of July especially, let us also remember that we all stand on the shoulders of our Veterans who fought through all our wars so that we remain free. As a company, we reaffirm an American commitment of zero tolerance for any form of discrimination, including racism. Through both our actions and our words, we recommit our efforts to honor and respect the dignity and diversity of the peoples who helped build our nation, including, if not especially, Native Americans, from whom so much was taken. As a company, let us remind ourselves and each other that through inclusiveness and diversity, our perspectives and contributions to American Heritage stewardship are strengthened mightily. Let us rededicate our collective efforts to promote Social and Economic Justice and inclusion, and to help focus the discussion through our work at America’s historic sites. As leaders in American Heritage stewardship, we have a special responsibility to do so.
The events of the past month have brought uncomfortable truths to the attention of the American public. Through our work, we have seen and felt the tangible remains and facts of many of those uncomfortable truths. But in their recognition, as in the protests we have seen across our nation, we should find hope. Hope for a better tomorrow for all of us and for our Nation. As Americans, we should know that we can achieve anything. Anything that we imagine can be attained. As a People, we are never afraid. When we experience a defeat, we simply redouble our efforts and achieve victory. Our mission as a company is clear and remains unchanged: To continue to tell the unblemished facts of American history, and to interpret those facts in a manner that respects the dignity and diversity of our people. We reaffirm the fundamental precepts and aspirations of Social and Economic Justice. We acclaim the enduring truth so beautifully expressed 244 years ago, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”