Retiring U.S. national archivist David Ferriero allegedly gave the Biden administration some strict instruction in recent weeks on what type of person should be nominated to replace him — only it had nothing to do with qualifications.
Instead, the outgoing archivist told administration officials his primary concern is that the new archivist fit a certain demographic; namely, not white and male.
“That’s advice I’ve given to the White House already: that you better not hire another white male. … We’ve had 10 white males,” Ferriero said during an interview during the National Archives annual Sunshine Week event.
Moments before, the moderator, David Rubenstein, had pointed out that there has never been a female national archivist.
National Archives Sunshine Week Celebration
Later in the interview when asked why he was retiring given that there’s no fixed term for the national archivist post, Ferriero made it clear that he wanted the Biden administration “to be the administration that replaces me.”
Axios was the first to report on Ferriero’s remarks.
The former director of New York Public Libraries, Ferriero served 12 years as the national archivist prior to announcing his retirement. He was appointed to the post in 2009 by then-President Barack Obama.
In a statement on the National Archives website, Ferriero said, “It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve my country once more, this time to lead the Executive Branch agency charged with ensuring that the American people can hold their government accountable and learn from the past by accessing the records of our country.”
Earlier in the Sunshine Week discussion, Ferriero touted his work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the National Archives, noting that the agency’s leadership group underwent a transformation during his tenure. He complained that when he first arrived at the post, the National Archives staff was decidedly not diverse.
Also under Ferriero’s leadership, the National Archives launched a controversial task force on racism. That task force would go on to produce a report concluding that the National Archives Rotunda, the place that houses America’s founding documents in Washington, D.C., is yet another example of “systemic racism.”
The Rotunda, it said, “lauds wealthy White men in the nation’s founding while marginalizing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other People of Color), women, and other communities.”
The task force then called for the agency to “reimagine the Rotunda” to “create a more inclusive and historically accurate tribute to the nation’s founding.”
Then, in September, in response to the task force’s findings, the National Archives splashed a “Harmful Language Alert” above its entire catalog, which includes the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
The trigger warning reminded readers that many of America’s found documents contain “harmful or difficult” content in the form of “racist, sexist, ableist, misogynistic/misogynoir, and xenophobic opinions and attitudes,” among other things.