Lawmakers Push to Ban ‘1619 Project’ From SchoolsBreaking News
tags: history education, curriculum, teaching history, 1619 Project
The school curriculum linked to the New York Times’ 1619 Project— an initiative that aims to reframe U.S. history by putting the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at its center—is once again the target of Republican lawmakers, who seek to ban the materials in three states.
The three bills, recently introduced by state legislators in Arkansas, Iowa, and Mississippi, argue that the lessons misrepresent U.S. history. The Arkansas and Mississippi bills call the 1619 Project “a racially divisive and revisionist account;” the Iowa bill claims that it “attempts to deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”
All propose that school districts choosing to use the curriculum lose part of their state funding, in proportion to the time and resources devoted to teaching the material.
The project garnered intense public interest when it was published in 2019, with New Yorkers lining up on the street to receive copies. And it has received critical acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize for journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones’ flagship essay in the collection.
The bills all use the same or similar language as legislation proposed in July by U.S. Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who sought to ban all U.S. schools from using the materials. And they echo proposals by former President Donald Trump, who, in his final few months in office, said he would ban states from teaching the project, accused history educators of teaching children to “hate their own country,” and convened a 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education.”
Previous challenges to the 1619 curriculum, from Trump and Cotton, were mostly symbolic, said Jonathan Zimmerman, an education historian at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Federal education law prevents the recommendation or banning of specific curricula at the national level.
“At the state level, it’s a different ball of wax,” he said, noting that these statehouse challenges could prove more substantive. “Historically, school curriculum has been determined at the state level.”
Whether these bills pass or not, they demonstrate the persistence of backlash to curricula that center Black history and Black stories, said Stephanie P. Jones, an assistant professor of education at Grinnell College. Attempts to gloss over the more challenging parts of the country’s story in schools didn’t start with the Trump presidency, and they won’t end with its conclusion, Jones said.
“This type of mishandling of curriculum has been in place since U.S. public schools have been in place,” she said. “They were not designed to educate Black children, and they were not designed to educate white children to be critical of anything related to the foundations of this country.”