Declaration was conceived by Reginald Dwayne Betts and Titus Kaphar as their contribution as fellows with Mural Arts Philly’s Reimagining Re Entry Fellowship. They chose to work with men and women from Mural Arts’ Guild Program, a reentry program for men and women returning from prison, as well as men from the Mural Arts mural program at SCI Phoenix.
The general idea of this project is that the Declaration of Independence is both a revolutionary document but one that brings to life the many contradictions of America. The idea of redaction is that the most poignant of documents always reveal something of their truths and contradictions, and that by redacting text from those documents, you can have some control over what is seen more, the truth or the contradiction. Also, the redaction process is very individual. A person can work over a document until something that begins as five pages might simply be reduced to a single page, or even to a single paragraph.
Declaration Redaction shows the truths and contradictions embedded in the Declaration of Independence. While it states that “all men are created equal” a short time later during the writing of the Constitution the 3/5 clause rewrote that to determine that for the purposes of representation in Congress enslaved African Americans would be counted as 3/5 of the number of white inhabitants of each state. This equation has been guiding the United States for nearly 250 years and only in light of the recent racial reckoning brought about by the deaths of young black men and women by police has there begun to be a shift in public perception.