Issues & Insights

The 1619 Project vs. The 1776 Commission — Propaganda vs. History

In recent years, schools throughout America have been implementing U.S. history curricula that would be considered almost unrecognizable a few decades ago.

As a recently retired U.S. history teacher, I have experienced first-hand how differently today’s students are taught the history of our country compared to just a generation ago. 

In the late 1990s, when I was a high schooler, I vividly remember learning about the history, warts and all, of the United States. Back then, before high schools became leftist indoctrination camps, U.S. history was predicated on the facts. Today, not so much.

The revisionism of American history that has become all too common in classrooms from coast to coast can arguably be traced to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” The book, a favorite of leftist teachers, laid the groundwork for the “reinterpretation” of U.S. history that has infiltrated so many schools over the years.

Yet, in many ways, Zinn’s book and the affiliated Zinn Education Project, was a beta test. 

The updated version of this revisionist, anti-American history is even more evident in the notorious 1619 Project. Launched in 2019, “The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that … 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.”

In other words, the 1619 Project, which has been adopted by schools across America, seeks to rewrite American history as being based upon one thing, and one thing only: racism.

This is obviously far from the truth. However, students throughout the nation are buying into this lie — hook, line, and sinker.

Teaching millions of American children that the country they live in is miserably racist is downright dangerous and patently false. Unfortunately, years of teaching American students that their country is hopelessly oppressive and rabidly racist has created a generation of youth who are predisposed to riot in Black Lives Matter (BLM)-led protests, regardless of the facts (or lack thereof) that supposedly underlie the racial rhetoric.

No wonder 90% of Generation Z support BLM and believe that systemic racism runs rampant in the United States. And because they have been brainwashed into believing that American capitalism is evil and exploitative, it should not come as a shock that the majority of Millennials and Generation Z support socialism over capitalism.

Fortunately, a backlash is building against the movement that seeks to teach U.S. history through the most negative prism possible. It is aptly named the 1776 Commission.

On September 17, President Trump outlined the need for, and goals of, the 1776 Commission during the first-ever White House Conference on American History.

“Our mission is to defend the legacy of America’s founding, the virtue of America’s heroes, and the nobility of the American character. We must clear away the twisted web of lies in our schools and classrooms, and teach our children the magnificent truth about our country. We want our sons and daughters to know that they are the citizens of the most exceptional nation in the history of the world,” said the president.

President Trump went on to articulate how “the left-wing rioting and mayhem are the direct result of decades of left-wing indoctrination in our schools. It’s gone on far too long. Our children are instructed from propaganda tracts, like those of Howard Zinn, that try to make students ashamed of their own history.”

He also emphasized how, “The left has warped, distorted, and defiled the American story with deceptions, falsehoods, and lies. There is no better example than the New York Times’ totally discredited 1619 Project. This project rewrites American history to teach our children that we were founded on the principle of oppression, not freedom.”

The president is correct. And parents are taking notice, especially now that most public schools are only offering online learning due to COVID-19. For the first time, many parents are becoming aware of what is being taught (and not taught) in American history classes. Outrage is brewing.

The president closed his remarks with, “The only path to national unity is through our shared identity as Americans. That is why it is so urgent that we finally restore patriotic education to our schools.”

That is true. We should teach the unvarnished history of America. We should not ignore the dark chapters of American history. But we also should not misconstrue our history to overemphasize these periods while ignoring the vast progress that has been made.

Teaching history is tricky. Context matters. Facts matter. Overall, America’s history embodies progress and the struggle to achieve what the Founders laid out in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The 1776 Commission, unlike the 1619 Project, is committed to ensuring that generations of Americans understand that America’s history, while not perfect, has been a steady march towards achieving the audacious ideals that our Founding Fathers put forth on July 4, 1776.

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.org) is an editor at The Heartland Institute.

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