Fresh off the controversy stirred by an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times arguing the need for federal troops in quelling violence following the death of George Floyd, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton is now introducing legislation to bar federal funding to schools that use the New York Times’ controversial 1619 Project as part of their curriculum.
The Saving American History Act of 2020 would “prohibit Federal funds from being made available to teach the 1619 Project curriculum in elementary schools and secondary schools, and for other purposes.”
“The New York Times’s 1619 Project is a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded,” Cotton said in a statement. “Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage.”
The legislation would mandate the federal departments of Agriculture, Education, and Health and Human Services to “prorate” federal education funds to school districts that decide to include The 1619 Project in their curriculum. Schools that taught the program also would lose out on “federal professional-development grants.”
Some school districts are moving to incorporate The 1619 Project into their history programs, despite the accuracy of this series of articles being called into question by some historians. However, Cotton’s bill would be dead on arrival in the Democratic House — if it passed the Republican Senate, which also appears unlikely.
The Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for the opening essay of the project, and she’s largely been the project’s de facto spokesperson. At the time of 1619 Project’s release, Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine, described the project as an attempt “to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”
There has been pointed criticism of the project, both from Republicans and historians who challenge the idea, among other things, that slavery played a role in why the American Revolution began.
“Now they want to change 1492, Columbus discovered America,” President Trump told Fox in a recent interview. “You know, we grew up, you grew up, we all did, that’s what we learned. Now they want to make it the 1619 Project. Where did that come from? What does it represent? I don’t even know.”
Some historians have criticized the project as well, including civil war historians James M. McPherson, Richard Carwardine and James Oakes. Historian Leslie. M Harris, who was consulted by the Times’ fact checkers for this project, has publicly disagreed with Hannah-Jones over one of the more controversial assertions of her writing.
“Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery,” Hannah-Jones said in an introductory essay for the project.
After its publication, Harris said in an opinion essay for Politico that she had argued against that claim, but was ignored.
According to National Review, school districts in several major American cities including Chicago, Ill., and Washington, D.C., plan to use some of the 1619 Project in their school curricula.