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So that we may learn, alter and grow

July 4, 2015

As we celebrate Independence Day, I thought it was appropriate to share something patriotic from our University Archives. While sorting through the recently-received addition to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers, I ran across some letters from a surprising correspondent.

In addition to his duties as Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and professor of Art History, Dr. Quirarte also served on several committees external to the university. In 1976, the United States celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the American Revolution. ARBA—the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration—was formed and asked to “coordinate, facilitate and aid in the scheduling of events, activities and projects of local, state, national and international entities in commemoration of the American Revolution Bicentennial.” [1]

Dr. Quirarte was one of 25 individuals appointed to ARBA’s Advisory Council. He was in distinguished company—some of his fellow appointees include Lady Bird Johnson, authors Alex Haley and James Michener, and poet Maya Angelou. Angelou, Haley, Michener, Quirarte, and Reverend Joseph L. Bernardin all served on a sub-committee tasked with creating a “declaration for the next 200 years.”

The process of drafting this declaration is revealed through correspondence between Quirarte and Angelou. At her request, on March 3, 1975, Jacinto Quirarte sent a letter to Angelou, sharing his concerns about American life. He concludes the letter with this statement: “An understanding and appreciation of the arts will enable us to function better as human beings.”

Later that month, Maya Angelou responded with a letter and a “very rough draft.” Here is an excerpt:

“Therefore, two hundred years later, in honor of the courage, the purpose, the generosity of the founding fathers, we the undersigned, commit ourselves to these intents.

We intend to examine the portentous aims not yet realized of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence.

We intend to familiarize ourselves with the past. Those aspects which show us in the best lights, so that we may be justly proud and others which do not show us well, so that we may learn, alter and grow.”

A later letter from Angelou is accompanied by another, shorter draft. Unfortunately, records in an archival collection often don’t tell the complete story. In this case, it is unclear if, when, or how Angelou’s declaration was ever delivered in the midst of the bicentennial festivities.

Regardless, it is a delight to read Angelou’s unpublished writings on the topic of America’s bicentennial, and it is gratifying to see evidence of Quirarte’s connections to other influential individuals beyond the UTSA community.

[1] More information about ARBA and the bicentennial celebrations can be found in the Bicentennial Times, available online through the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. pak152 permalink
    July 4, 2015 1:29 pm

    Interesting that they start with “nature has ….” compared to the Declaration which has ” the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them”


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