The 1619 Project’s goal of having Americans destroy their own country is far more dangerous than the severe inaccuracies presented in its poorly written, uncited essays. The false facts presented in the essays of the project will be discovered and debunked quickly by students with a thorough corroboration of reliable sources with actual expert historians. Unfortunately, younger students who take their teacher’s word as fact will likely not discover “the lies their teacher told them” until they are older.
Behind every lesson is a motive. History classrooms have moved far beyond listing facts. While names, places, and dates are notable parts of a lesson, they do not define what students take away. America was founded on July 4, 1776. Students will recite that fact and get it correct on a test (except for Nikole Hannah-Jones), but more importantly the teacher’s motive for teaching what happened on July 4, 1776 is not the date itself, but what it represents. When students explore America’s founding, they are making sense of the philosophy behind our existence and what it means to them as Americans. Our soldiers know what they are fighting for because they have recognized the truths that America was born out of and they understand the importance of maintaining those truths in the free world. Educators who use the 1619 Project know what they are fighting for and it is the destruction of our nation and the ideals for which we stand.
Nikole Hannah-Jones has brought nothing new to the curriculum. If she had uncovered unknown history, she may have made a significant contribution to help educators; however, her inaccurate facts have only made teachers feel like they are correcting a student’s essay rather than learning from a professional one. Some of the points Nikole Hannah-Jones seems to claim as her own revelations have already been a part of the social studies curriculum. The New York City Department of Education’s Scope and Sequence for grades K-8 (from 2014-2015) reveals that the key people, terms, and events mentioned by Nikole Hannah-Jones are already part of the curriculum. (We reference New York City as it is the largest and one of the most progressive school districts in America that has much influence over education.) Beginning in fourth grade, students learn about the life of slaves and abolitionists. As students progress in their academic career they learn about the Middle Passage, the brutal conditions of slavery, its point of contention and “lack of inclusiveness” in the drafting of the Constitution, the Civil War, the progress and the severe limitations during the Reconstruction era, segregation, the Harlem Renaissance and the achievements of black artists, the role of black Americans in the world wars, the Civil Rights Movement, and present-day achievements.
It is interesting how much history Nikole Hannah-Jones has chosen to leave out, or simply hasn’t sought to learn. When she mentions the fact that black Americans fought in the Civil War she fails to mention people like William Carney, the first black recipient of the Medal of Honor. Carney was awarded the highest honor in military service for his refusal to allow the American flag, our flag, the flag that she and her supporters dishonor and declare is racist, to touch the ground. He held it as he clinged to his life, severely wounded. The other soldiers reported that Carney was nearly lifeless, but still refused to let go of the flag. She also doesn’t bother to mention the contribution of James Armistead Lafayette during the American Revolution. Turning a blind eye to those who fought for America is doing an injustice to our history. It would not be surprising if Nikole Hannah-Jones turns these heroes into victims, after she hears about them, through false narratives that she creates to support her agenda.
Nikole Hannah-Jones’ choice to highlight only the negative aspects of history, and her imagined history, degrades the key contributions of many black Americans that she blatantly ignores. By refusing and selectively eliminating these inspirational stories of black Americans fighting for the nation they loved, while not having the rights of others, she discounts their belief in the promise of America. In the process of telling her distorted, one-sided version of our nation’s history, she further damages the hopes and dreams of all American children.
The great contributions of black Americans that we celebrate are of no interest to Nikole Hannah-Jones who, if she pays any attention to them at all, sadly turns their accomplishments into failures to maintain her victim-oriented narrative.
Hannah-Jones’ ignorance of black history has recently been proven as she mentioned nothing of the 56th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Surely she will have something negative to say about it, especially since she is a supporter of violent protests, but there is no denial that this landmark legislation was a success and made America a more perfect union.
The heartbreaking history of slavery and the brutal treatment of slaves has not and will not be erased from classrooms. The period of slavery, Reconstruction, and the fight for civil rights brings with it immeasurable sadness that students must come to learn. Teaching sensitive and difficult topics poses a challenge to teachers who try their best to be conscious of maintaining the truth while figuring out what imagery and content is appropriate for the age of their students. Opportunities to learn how to teach sensitive history are growing as educators who reflect on their lessons seek advice for teaching difficult topics in the most respectful ways; the 1619 Project does not offer such an opportunity.
Still, an overwhelming number of schools have adopted the 1619 Project into their curricular materials. Most notably, New York City’s suggested curriculum guide for social studies has been named “1619 Project: Connections to the Passport to Social Studies and Civics for All Curricula” and has added a guide for reframing daily lessons to incorporate the 1619 Project’s ideology. While some may think New York City is of course going to adopt such a radical idea, they may be surprised to find out that many other states have schools that have adopted it as well including Texas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, upstate New York, and Washington D.C.
The bullies at Teaching Tolerance (SPLC) have used the 1619 Project to continue bullying teachers who practice their freedom of thought. According to an SPLC article, Tiferet M. Ani, a social studies instructional specialist from Maryland who stated in regard to professional development, “Many of the teachers were eager to have a curriculum that…encouraged all students to question and evaluate U.S. policies that create racial inequities. However, some teachers who wanted to continue teaching a patriotic nationalistic narrative of American history had a hard time adjusting to the new curriculum that questioned American exceptionalism. These teachers needed additional support and learning on how failing to honestly confront and teach the past impacts students.” Their suggestion that proud Americans need mental “help” shows their intolerance and their support of a dictatorial education system in which diverse thought is “fixed” through retraining the mind so that their agenda is not questioned. Although they claim to promote civics, their silencing of opposing viewpoints promotes tyranny and group-think instead.
This type of bullying is not only limited to teachers, but to students as well. In an article published by the School Library Journal, Chris Dier, Louisiana’s 2020 Teacher of the Year, commented, “It made a direct connection between the history and something that’s real and tangible in their lives. I think it was beneficial for my white students to be provided with that historical context. That way, when they hear certain things in the future that are purely partisan or biased, we can get them to think differently of another group or race or ethnicity.” His tactic of bullying students into conforming to his beliefs has proven effective as one of his students commented, “It showed me the idea of complete equality is far from real in America and that much more must be done to achieve it.”
The Pulitzer Center, the 1619 Project’s chosen partner in education, has created numerous lessons for teachers on the 1619 Project, and provided space for teachers to share their lessons and student work. Some of their suggested lessons include Mapping Your Community’s Connections to Slavery, Visualizing Contemporary Linkages to Slavery, Imagined Ancestry, and developing a new timeline from 1619 to have students “come up with their own connections between slavery and the larger narrative of U.S. history.” A sample question they recommend teachers ask students is, “How do societal structures developed to support the enslavement of black people, and the anti-black racism that was cultivated in the U.S. to justify slavery, influence many aspects of modern laws, policies, systems, and culture?”
Of course the Zinn Education Project never passes up an opportunity to further degrade America. Their lessons on the 1619 Project include “How to Make Amends: A Lesson on Reparations, students examine more than a dozen different reparative policies to help clarify their own beliefs about the appropriate context, goal, and form of reparations for historical injustices like slavery and genocide.”
It is interesting that educators seem to pick and choose when facts matter and when they do not. The National Council for the Social Studies recently posted an article citing historians and America’s founding fathers to “justify” President Trump’s impeachment (for which they did a bad job anyway); however, when it came to the 1619 Project they seemed to suggest that it is above being fact-checked by historians.
Still, many who critique the 1619 Project have left out or downplayed Nikole Hannah-Jones’ assertion that America influenced Nazi Germany. According to her essay, “White America dealt with this inconvenience by constructing a savagely enforced system of racial apartheid that excluded black people almost entirely from mainstream American life — a system so grotesque that Nazi Germany would later take inspiration from it for its own racist policies.” While many of us are still trying to figure out where Hannah-Jones got her “research,” apart from her imagination, it is likely that she used Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (which also could explain why there are so many inaccuracies in her essay) as he compared America to Nazi Germany 40 years ago. Zinn wrote, “But what about fascism – as idea, as reality? Were it’s essential elements – militarism, racism, imperialism – now gone? Or were they absorbed into the already poisoned bones of the Victor’s?” This comparison of America to Nazi Germany that has sadly become so commonplace needs to stop. The only relationship that America has ever had with them is sacrificing our own people in a war to save the world from their evil.
Many moderates and conservatives believe that the left’s effort to depict America as an evil nation will never succeed, but they are wrong. Publications like the 1619 Project, and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States are now rewriting history. The good works that our nation has done across the globe are being reimagined as selfish acts of a racist nation. Instead of admitting that the United States is the most generous nation in the world, Nikole Hannah-Jones follows in the footsteps of Zinn in casting our actions as opportunistic capitalists trying to exploit every situation. We at The Locke Society, and most Americans, readily admit that America has its flaws. We must also teach the times in our history where living up to our ideals was a challenge, but ignoring the achievements of those who risked it all to make America the greatest nation God ever gave man limits the dreams of the future. Although the 1619 Project is highly destructive, the most worrisome fact is that the messages and destructive ideas it promotes have been present in the education system for decades. The only reason why Hannah-Jones’ radical ideology is able to make any impact at all is because it has been adopted by organizations like the Zinn Education Project and Teaching Tolerance whose influence in education continues to grow. The Locke Society needs your support in order to save the country that so many of us love and that so many have given their lives for.