African-American scholars just released the first installment of the 1776 Unites high school curriculum, aimed at countering the destructive message of The New York Times’ 1619 Project.
Robert Woodson — a 1960s civil rights activist and one of the prime movers behind the 1776 Unites initiative — told reporters on a Zoom call Tuesday that the 1619 Project is spawning a “very corrosive and very dangerous challenge to the traditional values” of the United States.
Woodson recounted that the point of the 1776 Unites curriculum, released Tuesday, is to offer an “inspirational alternative to this diabolical, I believe, message.”
“So we’re just delighted to offer an explicit curriculum that takes the best of what has occurred in the past, in terms of resilience of 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 said.
“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.”
Woodson, who has worked with inner-city youth and community leaders for decades, argued one of the most destructive messages that can be conveyed to young people is that they are victims lacking the agency to change their life circumstances.
“Because people are inspired to improve their lives when you offer them inspirational examples of victories that are possible instead of what 1619 does, only talks about injuries to be avoided,” he said.
The central premise of the 1619 Project is that the United States was founded in slavery. Slave traders first introduced the practice in the English colony of Virginia in 1619.
The project makes the fantastical claim that a primary cause of the Revolutionary War was the colonists’ desire to protect slavery.
For the record, slavery was not abolished in the British Empire until 1833 — over a half-century after the founding of the United States.
In response to a question from The Western Journal about other egregious falsehoods in the 1619 Project, Woodson said that much falls in the category of omissions.
“It’s the omission of the accomplishments that blacks achieve in the face of oppression,” he said.
“There’s no mention of Dr. [Martin Luther] King or Frederick Douglass, just scant mention of this,” Woodson added. “The Democratic Party is not mentioned at all as being associated with discrimination and the [Ku Klux] Klan.”
The focus is entirely on victimhood, he contended.
“People are motivated when they see victories that are possible,” Woodson said. “And 1619 is saying to black children, ‘We didn’t accomplish anything. We are just defined by slavery and Jim Crow. And therefore our destiny is determined by what white people do to change.’
“Which is really a destructive message that your destiny is in the hands of someone that we acknowledge does not like you or hates you.”
Woodson noted within a few short decades of slavery being abolished nationwide, there were several African-American millionaires and prosperous “Black Wall Streets” in places such as Chicago; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Durham, North Carolina.
Tulsa was not the only Black Wall Street: State Street in Bronzeville, Chicago anchored entertainment, financial, and services business for Blacks like the Pekin Theater. #BossPBS pic.twitter.com/DxmM9E35us
— Shennette Garrett-Scott (@EbonRebel) April 24, 2019
The scholar said the major shift for black Americans happened in the 1960s with the institution of Great Society policies.
‘What the Klan and the White Citizens Council could not destroy, liberal policies of the ’60s [did],” Woodson said.
These policies “separated work from income, which brought about a dramatic reduction in the family” and have “really been a disaster.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, the lead writer for the 1619 Project, has said her “ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed,” which of course would also be a transfer of wealth akin to the Great Society.
Ian Rowe — a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who is also working on the 1776 Unites curriculum — believes, like Woodson, the 1619 Project gets some major things wrong historically.
“1619 claims that America was founded as a slaveocracy, not a democracy,” he said during the Zoom call. “It also claims that America’s founding ideals were false when they were written. We reject these ideas.”
Working completely against Hannah-Jones’ narrative is the fact that almost all the states north of the Mason-Dixon Line had voted to abolish slavery by the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783.
By 1804, all the Northern states had passed legislation ending slavery.
In other words, after thousands of years of the practice of slavery in all regions of the world, Americans were the first to stand up in the 1770s, based on the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence, and say, “This is wrong.”
Of course, full emancipation in all the United States would be decided once and for all by the Civil War in the 1860s and the subsequent ratification of the 13th Amendment, passed by a Republican-led Congress.
“America is not defined solely by its legacy of slavery,” Rowe argued. “We want all children to know the legacy of excellence alongside the legacy of slavery. And these lessons are relevant not only to black children and minorities, it’s relevant to all children.
“There are innumerable examples of individuals and groups that have gone from persecution to prosperity by embracing America’s founding ideals.”
The first installment of the 1776 Unites curriculum includes some of these examples, such as Elijah McCoy, from whom the expression “the real McCoy” originates.
McCoy, whose parents had been slaves, was a prolific African-American inventor in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
His engineering designs were so associated with excellence that people did not want any knockoffs, they wanted “the real McCoy.”
McCoy was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2001.
The 1776 Unites curriculum also includes a lesson about Biddy Mason, a black woman who was born into slavery in the Deep South and died a millionaire real estate investor in Los Angeles.
A third lesson plan focuses on Woodson’s 10 principles for personal growth and community development, which “he has used in order to transform struggling neighborhoods and to empower the people within them,” Rowe said.
They are: competence, integrity, transparency, resilience, witness, innovation, inspiration, agency, access and grace.
“All of the lessons in the 1776 Unites curriculum are grounded in one or more of the 10 Woodson principles,” said Rowe, who previously served a decade as CEO of a network public charter schools in New York City.
The academic said new 1776 Unites lesson plans will be released each month, and they will be built on and improved based on the feedback received.
“While we’re initially offering this to teachers in K-12, it can be offered in camps, after-school programs, churches, homes, any other parent pods that are being created across the country,” Rowe said. “Anywhere character formation of children is happening.”
“We are making all of this available to anyone who wants to expose their children to incredibly inspiring and aspirational stories of the African-American experience in the United States, and the founding ideals that make America an exceptional place,” he said.
Rowe noted that the price is right too: It’s free of charge.
Any classroom in which the 1619 Project is being taught, at the very least, should integrate the 1776 Unites curriculum as well.
Academic honesty demands no less.
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