In one of its last acts, the Trump Administration posted a response to the New York Times’ 1619 Project interpreting American history beginning with the arrival of the first slave ship on Virginia’s shores, called the 1776 Project. It sought to develop a curriculum for students of history and other Americans as to the country’s origins. While the former received mixed reviews, as I reported previously in multiple posts, the latter received scathing ones from mainstream media and mixed reviews from conservative media. In one of his first acts, President Biden disbanded the 1776 Commission and removed the report from his White House web site. It remains available online. And as CNN reported, Biden’s rescinding the 1776 report does not end the fight over history.
German Historian Torsten Kathke noted on Twitter that none of the people involved in compiling the 41-page document are actually historians. They are political scientists and Republican operatives. It is “a propagandist’s hack job,” he tweeted.
They “have produced a full-throated attack on progressives in American history as well as a whitewashed celebration of the U.S.A,” wrote Boston College Historian Heather Cox Richardson in her daily “Letter from an American.” “Made up of astonishingly bad history, this document will not stand as anything other than an artifact of Trump’s hatred of today’s progressives and his desperate attempt to wrench American history into the mythology he and his supporters promote so fervently.”
She did say the report provides a window into the mindset of Trump and his supporters. “In it, the United States of America has been pretty gosh darned wonderful since the beginning, and has remained curiously static. “[T]he American people have ever pursued freedom and justice,” it reads, and while “neither America nor any other nation has perfectly lived up to the universal truths of equality, liberty, justice, and government by consent,” “no nation… has strived harder, or done more, to achieve them.”
America “seems to have sprung up all by itself,” Richardson wrote, without lessons learned from centuries of European history nor the founding fathers absorbing the books of diverse philosophers. Instantly in 1776, the country was “fine and finished.” The purpose of America was simply to acquire, purchase and own as much of the country as possible.
According to the document’s authors, trouble began in the 1890s, when “progressives” demanded that the Constitution “should constantly evolve to secure evolving rights.” It was at that moment the teaching of history took a dark turn.” Hmm. And what was the spark in that moment? Was it the beginning of the progressive movement that curbed the power of the capitalists, the robber barons, attacked monopolies and demanded regulations against child labor and other abuses?
Cox’s full letter is well worth reading.
The 1776 Report is rife with ‘errors, distortions, and outright lies, historians say (Upworthy.com).
It received heavy backlash (The Hill).
While the 1776 Project disparaged “identify politics” of the left, the Trump presidency was the epitome of white identity politics, noted Eugene Scott of The Washington Post.
Report “blasts progress” views of American history, but it is “derided by historians,” NYT reports.
Fox News: Report Urged Schools to Reject “Ideological Poison” and “Toxic Propaganda”
WSJ: Trump Report Tries to Correct the Historical Record.
National Review: Ridiculous Attacks on the 1776 Project.
Biden Signs Executive Order Disbanding 1776 Commission
The Atlantic, while criticizing the 1776 Project, makes the case for an “inclusive” 1776 not 1619 as the date of America’s founding. 1776 Honors America’s Diversity In A Way That 1919 Does Not.