What is ‘The 1619 project’? Trump warns of defunding schools teaching about alternative view of American history
On Sunday, September 6, Trump retweeted a post shared by an unverified account that spoke about California implementing New York Times' ‘1619 project’ into the public schools. POTUS told in his tweet that “Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded!”
Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded! https://t.co/dHsw6Y6Y3M— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2020
What is the 1619 project?
‘The 1619 project' is an effort by the New York Times and Black writers to highlight African Americans' pivotal role and contribution in the development of US. The initiative began in August 2019, on the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The official website stated that the project’s aim is to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” Recently, the 1619 Project teamed up with the Pulitzer Center to develop school curriculum to use 1619 Project content in classrooms. Trump’s tweet comes after he banned federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training related to 'white privilege' and 'critical race theory' on Friday, September 4.
Opposing the belief that slavery in America started in 1776 when the founding father declared independence from Britain, the project argues that it all started in the late August 1619, when a cargo ship carrying 20 to 30 enslaved Africans arrived at Point Comfort in the colony of Virginia. NYT notes that the “arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years." The project redefines this from “country’s original sin” to “country’s very origin.”
With a goal to reframe American history by considering 1619 as the year the nation was born, the project tries to shed light on factors that truly made “America exceptional”, be it in terms of “economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education”. The project further takes a deep dive into prevailing issues of racism, income inequality, “and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day.”
What does the project offer?
The publication of the '1619 Project' began in August 2019 with a special issue of The New York Times Magazine, consisting of essays on “different aspects of contemporary American life, from mass incarceration to rush-hour traffic, that have their roots in slavery and its aftermath.” Each essay reveals the history behind the modern phenomenon.
Besides essays, the Pultizer-Prize-winning collection also brings together 17 literary works of contemporary Black writers who have chosen events on a timeline of the 400 years. Each piece of poetry and fiction begins with an introduction to its history, to which the author responds.
Why is Trump against funding schools that implement the 1619 project?
Trump recently ordered the purge of ‘Critical Race Theory’ from Federal Agencies which asserts that “'institutions are inherently racist and that race itself... is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color”.
Calling such training “un-American propaganda”, Russell Vought, the director of the Office of Management and Budget ordered the federal agencies to “alter” the sensitivity program. He wrote in a two-page memo, “Employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend training where they are told that "virtually all White people contribute to racism" or where they are required to say that they "benefit from racism”. In the memothe Trump aide directed government agencies to sniff out ‘training or propaganda efforts’
According to the Daily Mail, Vought has stated that Trump has “directed” him to ensure that taxpayer dollars aren’t used to fund these “divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.”