US President Donald Trump has threatened to withdraw funding to schools who teach the so-called 1619 Project in their history syllabus.
On Sunday, responding to a tweet from a member of the public who claimed California had “implemented the 1619 project” and added "soon you won’t recognise America."
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
Trump tweeted that the federal Department of Education was looking into it and added: “If so, they will not be funded.”
On Tuesday, 8 September, the Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, said the president had no power to cut funding to schools which chose to teach the project.
If the White House sought to press the issue it could go all the way to the US Supreme Court, just like the 1987 ruling on the teaching of creationism in public schools.
President Donald Trump has no power to cut Chicago Public Schools funding for teaching the 1619 project, Mayor Lori Lightfoot says.— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) September 8, 2020
But why does the 1619 Project cause so much ire among Trump supporters?
The New York Times - which is often seen by MAGA supporters as being run by an East Coast elitist, liberal clique - said the idea behind the 1619 Project was to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very centre of the national narrative.”
It then teamed up with the Pulitzer Center to develop a school curriculum based on the project.
The average eight-year-old child in America could tell you the United States came into being on 4 July 1776, when it declared independence - although it was not until 1783 that Britain conceded defeat in the Revolutionary War and left.
American history has always begun with the “heroic” events of the late 18th century, including the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s midnight ride and concluding with George Washington’s defeat of General Cornwallis at Yorktown - with little or no mention of the French army’s role in the latter.
But the New York Times and many liberal historians believe the syllabus needs to go back further, to the beginning of slavery, which they say was a seminal moment in the creation of “American” society.
Traditionalists feel the 1619 Project is political correctness gone mad and should not be mentioned anywhere near a classroom.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) September 6, 2020
In May this year New York Post columnist Gerard Baker wrote that the point of the 1619 Project was to define America defines America “as a nation built not on the lofty ideals of freedom and self-government laid out in the document written by the Founding Fathers, but as one built on the degradation, dehumanisation and persecution of black people.”
Baker described it as “self-abasing historical revisionism.”
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) September 6, 2020
For MAGA supporters and for many Americans the United States is the “home of the free” and “land of the brave” and its bedrock is the constitution penned by Thomas Jefferson, which states that “all men are created equal”.
Jefferson - who later became President - himself owned hundreds of slaves and certainly those who drafted the constitution did not consider their male slaves to be anything like their equals.
In December last year an editorial in the New York Times responded to criticism of the project: "It is difficult to argue that equality has ever been truly achieved for black Americans - not in 1776, not in 1865, not in 1964, not in 2008 and not today."
The editorial went on to say: "The very premise of the 1619 Project, in fact, is that many of the inequalities that continue to afflict the nation are a direct result of the unhealed wound created by 250 years of slavery and an additional century of second-class citizenship and white-supremacist terrorism inflicted on black people."
Earlier this week Seth Cohen, a writer with Forbes, argued that the Trump administration was “threatening to censor the way schools teach about the history of slavery and racism in the United States.”