Here’s Where The 1619 Project Is Gaining Traction And Facing Challenges In The US

Here’s where the 1619 Project is gaining traction and facing challenges in the US

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The controversial 1619 Project has prompted a fierce debate over US history and how schoolchildren should understand the influence of race on current institutions. Advocates on both sides have attempted to push legislation and curriculum that would move schools towards particular views of the nation’s founding.

On Wednesday, the free expression nonprofit PEN America told Gadget Clock Digital that it had counted 22 bills targeting the 1619 Project in different states since January 2021. While 14 of those are currently pending, six failed or were withdrawn. Those included one in Texas, two in Mississippi, one in Missouri, and another in Arkansas. In Texas, two laws passed while the state currently has the only law in force banning 1619.

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That bill specifies that “a teacher, administrator or other employee of a state agency, school district or open-enrollment charter school may not… require an understanding of the 1619 Project.”

Bills are currently pending in Alaska, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones signs books for her supporters on Nov.  30, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones signs books for her supporters on Nov. 30, 2021, in Los Angeles, California.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

The debate over the project will likely continue as states consider legislation targeting 1619. While some state-level legislation hasn’t explicitly mentioned 1619, it contains language that might be used to effectively ban the project from schools. For example, language targeting critical race theory or divisive concepts might be included as attempts to inadvertently target 1619 and other materials. States and localities may also ban or remove the 1619 Project through administrative actions.

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At the end of January, PEN America reported that at least 122 proposals to ban CRT were being considered in 33 states. In last month alone, state lawmakers introduced 56 anti-CRT bills. At least 12 have passed in 10 states.

Conservatives, and critical historians, have generally argued that 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones distorted the true history of the US with many of her claims. Some historians have also criticized her work.

Signs opposing critical race theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, June 22, 2021.

Signs opposing critical race theory line the entrance to the Loudoun County School Board headquarters, in Ashburn, Virginia, June 22, 2021.
(Reuters / Evelyn Hockstein)

The project has earned its founder plenty of criticism, but also awards and speaking engagements. For example, the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) doled out at least $ 50,000 for student- and teacher-designated events in which Hannah-Jones claimed, among other things, that America never lived up to its founding ideals and that Black Americans were the actual founding fathers.

At the federal level, the US Department of Education withdrew a grant program that specifically cited 1619. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Also proposed legislation to defund the project.

The 1619 Project from New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, has prompted backlash from politicians.

The 1619 Project from New York Times Magazine reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, has prompted backlash from politicians.
(Monica Schipper / Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)

However, the project appears to have gained traction in many locations across the US According to the Pulitzer’s 1619 Education Project, its “inaugural cohort” includes 40 organizations across 20 states and the District of Columbia.

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Hannah-Jones’ project has won a Pulitzer Prize and the author has received numerous awards.

Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center, said in 2019: “The education network we have built over the past 13 years is premised on the belief that journalism can be the engine for public education and civil discourse. It is hard to imagine a topic more resonant, or more important, than ‘The 1619 Project.’ “