Amid all the civil discourse and political unrest that has taken place this year, one dividing thing that has astounded me just about as much as anything is the New York Times’ 1619 Project. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a curriculum that has been proposed to most US schools that teaches an alternative history to the one you were taught in school.
Instead of saying that America began in 1776 when the Revolutionary War was won and our Declaration of Independence was written, the project and its lessons claim that the real starting of America was in 1619 when the first slaves were brought to the English colony of Virginia.
From there, the project only continues to recount America’s history as seen through the eyes of slavery, forever claiming that African Americans were at the mercy of whites and still are. According to the 1619 Project, every economic or social development in our history is based on the sole purpose of continuing slavery and “systematic racism” throughout the country.
In addition, the project insinuates that even the founding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all false, and simply written to further the lie that this nation was built on hope and freedom.
If you are reading this and are horrified at the prospect of your children and grandchildren learning about American history through this distorted lens, know that you are not alone.
And thankfully, some of those who would agree with you on this have stepped up to the plate to do something about it.
Now, they aren’t exactly in the position to not allow schools to teach this version of history. But they can offer a direct response or counter it.
Enter the 1776 Unites initiative.
Newly released for educational purposes everywhere, this curriculum was created by a team of African American scholars who want to give American children hope of success and not the mentality that they are nothing but victims.
One such individual is Robert Woodson, who has helped create the initiative and was a 1960s civil rights activist. Woodson says the point of the project is to create an “inspirational alternative to this diabolical, I believe, message.” He says that the 1619 Project is not only incorrect in its teaching of American history but offers a “very corrosive and very dangerous challenge to the traditional values” we have in America.
Woodson cites that, in contrast to the 1619 Project, 1776 Unites seeks to present children and really any American with a “curriculum that takes the best of what has occurred in the past, in terms of resilience in black America, and presents it in a way that will help young people in our society profit from and rebuild and to affirm America’s values.”
He continues that “No nation or individual should be defined by its birth defect or what it used to be in the past. America should be defined by its promise.”
Instead of only talking about the atrocious things that happened to minorities throughout American history, 1776 Unites seeks to teach that good can occur despite the bad.
Woodson says this is important to teach “Because people are inspired to improve their livers when you offer them inspirational examples of victories that are possible, instead of what 1619 does, only talks about injuries to be avoided.”
Take the life-inspiring example of Elijah McCoy, as in the “real McCoy.” McCoy was born to slave parents, but despite the hardships his family endured, he rose to become one of America’s most renowned African-American inventors. He was so known for the quality of his craft that people didn’t want anything that wasn’t attached to his name. They had to have the “real McCoy.”
Or what about Biddy Mason. She was also born a slave, and yet when she died, she was living in Los Angeles as a millionaire real estate investor.
And it’s stories like these that lie in direct contrast to the 1619 Project.
As Woodson tells it, the left-ward leaning curriculum only shows African Americans as victims that can’t change their futures. And by doing so, it omits some of the greatest learning opportunities in our history.
There is no mention of Dr. King or Frederick Douglass.” Nor does it accept that Americans were some of the first to denounce slavery. By 1804, every Northern state had officially outlawed slavery. The same could not be said of the British Empire for at least another 30 years.
And to Woodson and his colleagues, this simply isn’t acceptable, hence creating their own project.
Oh, and by the way, the 1776 Unites curriculum will be available “anywhere character formation of children is happening,” and for free.