Story at a glance

  • The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that examines the legacy of slavery in the United States.
  • Some of the assertions made in the project have been controversial among historians and politicians.
  • Sen. Tom Cotton proposed a bill to prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project in schools.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) has introduced a bill to prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the 1619 Project in public schools. 

“The New York Times’s 1619 Project is a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded. Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage,” said Cotton in a release. 

Published last year, the 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that honors the year the first African slaves were brought to an English colony. 


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"The goal of The 1619 Project is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country," said Jake Silverstein, editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine, in a letter

The "Saving American History Act of 2020" would require the Department of Education to determine the cost associated with planning and teaching the 1619 Project in schools in order to reduce federal funding by that amount. However, funds for the free and reduced price school lunch program and students with disabilities will not be affected, according to the bill, which would also render any elementary or secondary school that teaches the 1619 project ineligible for federal professional-development grants.  


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The curriculum developed by the Pulitzer Center in conjunction with the project is available online for free, as Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on it, pointed out on Twitter. 

Since its publication, the project has been challenged by members of the Republican party and other right-wing figures. 

“Now they want to change 1492, Columbus discovered America,” President Trump told Fox in a recent interview. “You know, we grew up, you grew up, we all did, that’s what we learned. Now they want to make it the 1619 Project. Where did that come from? What does it represent? I don’t even know.”

Some historians have criticized the project as well, including civil war historians James M. McPherson, Richard Carwardine and James Oakes. Historian Leslie. M Harris, who was consulted by the Times’ fact checkers for this project, has publicly disagreed with Hannah-Jones over one of the more controversial assertions of her writing. 

"Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery," Hannah-Jones said in an introductory essay for the project. 

After its publication, Harris said in an opinion essay for Politico that she had argued against that claim, but was ignored. 

"Overall, the 1619 Project is a much-needed corrective to the blindly celebratory histories that once dominated our understanding of the past—histories that wrongly suggested racism and slavery were not a central part of U.S. history. I was concerned that critics would use the overstated claim to discredit the entire undertaking. So far, that’s exactly what has happened," she said. 


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Published on Jul 23, 2020