Debate Defends Democracy


A Special 90-Minute Edition of Debate Defends Democracy

Federal Hall is a place of contradictions. In the very place where the First Congress approved — in September, 1789 — the amendments that became known as the Bill of Rights, the rights that document denied have festered and deepened wounds of inequality and injustice that continue to roil the nation. Our founding history is complicated by our "original sins" — the narrow framework of the Declaration affirming the equality of “all men,” the Constitutional protection of slavery, and the displacement of indigenous peoples from their lands. In this special edition of DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY, we wrestle with how Federal Hall should honor the past while telling a more authentic history. How do we celebrate the stunning achievement of the founders while committing to the unfinished work of achieving a more perfect union?


Wynton Marsalis


Wynton Marsalis in a solo performance from Federal Hall inspires a spirit of reconciliation, healing, and optimism at this challenging moment in our nation’s history. An internationally acclaimed musician, composer and bandleader, and educator, Mr. Marsalis is a leading advocate of American culture. His core beliefs and foundation for living are based on the principals of jazz. He promotes individual creativity (improvisation), collective cooperation (swing), gratitude and good manners (sophistication), and faces adversity with persistent optimism (the blues). He has declared that jazz is a metaphor for democracy.
Lonnie Bunch


Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution interviewed by Sam Roberts, NY Times reporter and pro bono historian for Federal Hall’s Conservancy. Throughout his esteemed career as a curator and educator, Lonnie Bunch has focused on shaping a more inclusive history. Now leading the Smithsonian, Secretary Bunch is guiding an expanding narrative of the nation’s story, ensuring that those who have been left out are made visible and heard in the collections, exhibitions, and programs at the nation’s museums. This fascinating conversation will explore the challenges that face historical sites like Federal Hall.
Sam Roberts
Jami Floyd


Jami Floyd, WNYC’s Legal Editor who leads the station’s new Race & Justice Unit, moderates a discussion among three award-winning curators and artists with strong ties to New York who work in public spaces to elevate the visibility, historical reality, and contributions of groups people who were explicitly excluded by the founders from Constitutional protection: all women, African Americans, and indigenous people. The panelists will discuss the role of art as a means of storytelling, correcting historical omissions, inspiring civic engagement and building communities.


Joe Baker
Joe Baker is an artist and curator whose people are the Lenape. Executive director of the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center in Connecticut, Mr. Baker is also co-founder and director of Lenape Center in New York City. In addition to his own work as an artist, Mr. Baker advocates for land acknowledgement, concrete partnerships and specific initiatives to elevate understanding of New York as the Lenape homeland as we revisit the concept of “founders” in a land already occupied by northeastern tribes.
Meredith Bergman
Meredith Bergman works within, develops and subverts the tradition of narrative, representational sculpture to promote social justice and historical redress. Her Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument was unveiled in Central Park in August. Other commissions include the FDR Hope Memorial for Roosevelt Island in a setting designed for use by people of all abilities, the Boston Women’s Memorial, in which three historical women have come down off their pedestals, and a heroic-scale portrait for the Brooklyn Historical Society of Sally Maria Diggs, an enslaved child.
Hank Willis Thomas
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and Writing on the Wall. Co-founder of the artist-run initiative for art and civic engagement For Freedoms, Mr. Thomas has created public art like the monumental Unity installed in downtown Brooklyn last year and imagined what monuments of the future should look like as tools that shape the values and identity of a society.