Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton is introducing legislation that would prevent the use of federal tax dollars to go to schools that base part of their curriculum on the New York Times’ 2019 publication of the 1619 Project.
The multimedia project, helmed by NY Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, was created “to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year.” It coincided with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves in the Virginia colony and garnered Hannah-Jones a Pulitzer Prize for her groundbreaking reporting.
The project argues it is “finally time to tell our story truthfully” and “aims 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.”
After being published by the Times, a curriculum based on the project, which includes poems, essays, photographs and short fiction by a variety of contributors, was also formed. There are also dedicated lesson plans, activities and opportunities to discuss the material amongst a wide-range of students at various education levels with the proper intellectual framework and introduction to the 1619 Project.
Cotton, on the other hand, wants to forbid the teaching of the 1619 Project curriculum, claiming that it is a “distortion of American history.”
“The 1619 Project is left-wing propaganda. It’s revisionist history at its worst,” he said to Arkansas Online on Friday. Cotton also labeled slavery as a “necessary evil.”
“We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country,” he said, according to Arkansas Online. “As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
Were the Founders right or wrong, @TomCottonAR, when they called slavery a “necessary evil upon which the Union was built”? Because either you agree with their assessment of slavery as necessary or you admit they were lying and it was just an evil and dishonorable choice. Which? https://t.co/22c94wWhni— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 26, 2020
Cotton says he doesn’t believe America is “an irredeemably corrupt, rotten and racist country,” but rather “an imperfect and flawed land, but the greatest and noblest country in the history of mankind.” He’s also previously opposed recent efforts to remove Confederate names, monuments and symbols from military sites.
In a statement, New York Times spokesman Jordan Cohen said the 1619 Project “is based in part on decades of recent scholarship by leading historians of early America that has profoundly expanded our sense of the colonial and Revolutionary period. Much of this scholarship has focused on the central role that slavery played in the nation’s founding,” according to Arkansas Online. He also said that many teachers in America feel that their current curriculum does not address slavery nearly enough.
“It is in part due to these prevailing narratives that 60% of teachers polled in a 2017 [survey] said that they believed their textbook’s coverage of slavery was inadequate,” Cohen said. “We’re proud that, in partnership with The Pulitzer Center, we’ve been able to help address that problem by making The 1619 Project available as a course supplement that was taught last year in schools in all 50 states. We believe it is important for American students to understand the truth about their country’s history. To paraphrase the historian Alfred F. Young, we should not be so protective of the achievements of equality that we are unwilling to come to grips with inequality.”
The Arkansas Department of Education said on Friday (July 24) they couldn’t determine whether the 1619 Project is widely taught in their state.
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images