“It’s really important that people do something. I almost don’t care what you do, but do something. And when we have millions of people doing something, they’re not going to know what hit them.”
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On March 21, 2021, the Legal Insurrection Foundation held a Virtual Event: Rescuing History and Education From The 1619 Project. The event was a follow-up to our prior events on how Critical Race Training was harming Higher Ed and K-12.
The full speaker bios are at our prior post (the full link above):
PROFESSOR LUCAS MOREL
Jr. Professor of Politics
Washington and Lee University
DR. MARY GRABAR
Alexander Hamilton Institute
Author, “Debunking ‘The 1619 Project’” (Due 9/2021)
Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Co-Founder, 1776 Unites
Embedded immediately below is a highlight reel excerpting the program, as well as a transcript of the highlight reel.
Please note that the highlight reel compacts clips of statements by the respective speakers and are not single uninterrupted presentations, it should be obvious where the break in the original comes (but if there’s any doubt, you can watch the full video at the bottom of the post).
Also, the transcript is mostly auto-generated, so there may be transcription errors.
HIGHLIGHT REEL TRANSCRIPT
(Auto-generated, may contain transcription errors. Time-stamps are approximate.)
Kemberlee Kaye, Director of Operations and Editorial Development, Legal Insurrection Foundation
(00:14) My name is Kemberlee Kaye, and I’m with the Legal Insurrection Foundation. I’m incredibly excited about this panel where we’re going to take a deep dive into the 1619 Project and how it has infiltrated education, not just in the higher education level, but primary education as well.
Professor William A. Jacobson, Cornell Law School and President, Legal Insurrection Foundation
(00:32) My focus is more on the political end of things. What does this all mean for the politics? And the 1619 Project, in my view, you really have to look at as a political project. It’s produced by the New York Times, so, to me, it’s automatically suspect, if it’s produced by the New York Times. Why is the New York Times even purporting to produce history, much less history that is going to be used in education, particularly at the younger grades? And what I’ve read from it, it is really “journalism”, masquerading as history. And the good thing is they’ve kind of admitted that. Not “kind of”, they have admitted that. Nicole Hannah Jones admitted it in that moment of candor on the Internet. She was very upfront about what this is. It is a, she says in a now-deleted tweet in… the end of July, 2020… “The 1619 Project is not about history. It’s about memory.” And she goes on to say in another tweet, also now deleted, “I’ve always said that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative.” She goes on in another tweet to say, “The crazy thing is the 1619 Project is using history and reporting to make an argument. It never pretended to be a history.”
(02:12) And then, in one more tweet, she says, “The fight here is about who gets to control the national narrative.” And I think that is really the way, politically, I view the 1619 Project. It is part of a political project, by the New York Times, to change the historical narrative of the United States and to reframe it. It is frankly, by their own admission, essentially propaganda. By design, it is meant to be political, and it’s meant to create a political narrative. And the question I always have is, why are these people in our schools? What is a political project, which by their own admission is meant to create an [argument], a narrative, what is it doing in our schools? This needs to get out. This is something that is pernicious, which is already within the gates. To use the phrase, the educational barbarians are already inside the gates. It is too late to keep them out, but that’s really my big takeaway from the 1619 Project… It is not education by their own admission. It is politics, and it needs to get out of our educational system. This is political, get it out of our schools, and let’s start afresh (…)
Professor Lucas Morel, Washington and Lee University
(03:36) When Nicole Hannah Jones published her essay, arguing that 1619, not 1776, represented, “America’s,” in her words, “true founding,” she was challenging the most traditional understanding of the formation of the United States. She was proposing that the most significant event in our nation’s history was not when we actually became a nation by declaring our political independence from Great Britain on the basis of universal principles applicable to all human beings everywhere. Instead, the mere arrival of twenty-plus slaves, African slaves, near the English colony of Jamestown marked, a way of life that, she asserts was, the driver of all American history. She asks us to reject the most famous dating of America’s birth, “That,” by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “Four score, and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Is Nicole Hannah Jones or Abraham Lincoln, correct?
(04:42) Lincoln believed that, at the beginning of this country, was a commitment to the equality of men, as he put it, “as its central idea.” “Were the enforcement of that quality would follow,” as he said, “as fast as circumstances should permit.” But his election as president eventually led white Americans in eleven slaveholding states to secede, as they put it, and attempt to found a new nation devoted, not to equality, but inequality: white enslavement of black people. Now, if America was founded on slavery and existed to perpetuate it, why on earth did all the slave states except for the so-called “Border Slave States,” why did all the rest of them try to secede from the United States… And the US constitution, yes, made compromises or concessions to slavery, but included mechanisms to reduce its influence on America. Now, if you want a real nation founded on slavery, Exhibit A is not the American nation governing itself under the U.S. Constitution, but the attempt of Southern States to govern themselves under a Confederate constitution. The seceding States [believed] slavery would be safer outside of the American union, not inside.
(06:01) [Nicole Hannah Jones’s] story is so flawed that, to remember our past the way she wants us to remember it, distorts, not just what actually happened historically, it also undermines the civic trust that Americans of all races and ethnicities need to have in each other, in order for our diversity, our manifold diversity, to strengthen rather than to divide us. Her approach is untrue to the actual history because it leaves out so much of the history. The facts, as she wants to put it, it undermines a due affection for the United States precisely by making the country “unlovable” and subverts the trust between citizens in its Manichaean portrayal of American progress, as simply a record of heroic black virtue triumphing over continual, white vice. But Nicole Hannah Jones takes for-granted the humane efforts of white Americans of goodwill, Americans who understood that the country was founded not on slavery, but on equality, and therefore worked to get our practice to align more closely with our profession.
(07:12) For Nicole Hannah Jones to assert that “anti-black racism,” as she calls it, runs in the very DNA of this country… turns a blind eye to the profound conviction of most white Americans that all men really are created equal and deserve an equal opportunity to pursue the American dream understood this way. Once [it’s] not 1619, but 1776, as the legitimate origin of the meaning of America, the true founding and the true soul of America, that for me, is an affirmation of the systemic justice that has guided our development as a country and as a people instead riddled with half-truths, overstatements, out-of-context quotations, and errors of both fact and interpretation about the founding and my specialty, Abraham Lincoln, her narrative distorts our past (…)
Dr. Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow, Alexander Hamilton Institute and Author, “Debunking the 1619 Project” (Due 9/2021)
(08:07) As someone who taught English, I look at language and the rhetorical strategies that writers use as much as the facts. I’m also going through the facts, the lies, the misrepresentations, the half-truths, the exaggerations, and on and on. But the language that she uses is so incendiary. “We were founded as a ‘slave-ocracy,'” which is one of the most absurd things when you think about how slavery was introduced here in 1619. It was almost by accident. No one was expecting that ship; it just kind of developed. And as I go through my research, I just come across this incredible information about the 17th century, where blacks and whites were intermarrying, they were working together. And eventually, slavery became solidified and codified. And from slavery, you get the racism. It’s not the other way around. (…)
(09:23) She insists that you have racism, and then you have slavery. It’s not necessarily so. (…) The way Hannah Jones presents it is very Manichaean. It’s like it just popped out of nowhere. And that the first people here just decided this is going to be a “slave-ocracy.” We’re going to build our country on this. This is how we’re going to get our wealth and our power, on the backs of slaves. And that is not the case. And in 1776, slavery was all around the world. The only place it wasn’t being practiced was in Western Europe, and then you still had the colonies. So it was a fact of life, and it needs to be put into perspective. And the people that she slams, particularly, Jefferson and Lincoln, they always had qualms about slavery. They didn’t like it.
(10:27) But it was a system that they were born into. And I think that needs to be exposed. (…) There’s the questioning of the legitimacy of the United States. That’s what Howard Zinn does. He wants readers, students to think that the United States doesn’t even have a right to exist. And that’s what Hannah Jones is doing. (…) She’s also pretending that this is something new, that no one knew this before. But if you read history by African-American scholars, 1619 is a year that has been known, and that has been acknowledged, right from the beginning. It’s nothing new. But that’s part of the marketing. So it is really truly propaganda. There is just about no historical benefit to it. (…) It’s a very falsified history. It’s propaganda schtick. It uses the strategies of propaganda. And there are bills in five different States, including her home state of Iowa, that have been introduced this year to, like Tom Cotton’s bill, keep this material out of classrooms, which I think… you have to have standards for classroom materials.
(11:55) But I’m seeing a lot of Letters to the Editor in favor of the 1619 Project. And I think these are well intentioned people who don’t understand what this is. They haven’t read the dozens of historical critiques, and they think that this is an overlooked part of history that children should learn about. But they don’t understand what it is… And they’re calling it “censorship” to keep it out. The argument has to be, “No, this is not censorship.” This is maintaining educational standards. And absolutely, no second grader, sixth grader or 12th grader should be reading this, and it is pure propaganda in my opinion. (…)
Ian Rowe, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Co-Founder 1776 Unites
(12:47) Thank you, Kemberlee. And thank you, Professor Jacobson and Dr. Morrel, and Dr. Graybar. It’s fantastic to be working with you on this. I’m happy to actually also be speaking about what we can do about the velocity at which the 1619 Project has been absorbed within the American psyche. I’m also a co-founder of “1776 Unites”, which is a black-led, nonpartisan, intellectually diverse alliance of writers, thinkers, activists. We launched “1776 Unites” on Valentine’s Day of 2020. It was led by civil rights veteran Robert Woodson and a number of black leaders who acknowledge America’s history of racial discrimination. Yet, we recognize the pathways taken by millions of black people, past and present, who are not bound by a defeatist ideology. And when I was running Public Prep, which is the name of our network, we had 2000 students, more than 2000 students, primarily low income, primarily black and Hispanic students, whose parents chose our schools because they wanted their children to develop the skills and habits to become agents of their own uplift, to live the American Dream.
(14:14) They knew that their children may face closed doors because of America’s legacy of slavery, but because of America’s legacy of black excellence, and resilience in the face of slavery and discrimination, hundreds of doors are now open to young people. And so, as we thought about delivering the education to our students, not only are we thinking about math and science and reading, it’s also to ensure we teach a full and complete history of our country, warts and all, so that our kids understand they live in a good, if not great, country, a country that’s not hostile to their dreams, one in which there are pathways to their success. And those pathways are often grounded in the very ideals that the New York Times’s 1619 Project was saying were false, when they were written… It was very disheartening when we saw that the New York Times 1619 Project was being adopted in school systems where literally the literacy rates of proficiency are in single digits or less than twenty percent, places like Buffalo, Chicago, Rochester, New York.
(15:37) And so, when we saw that the New York Times had partnered with the Pulitzer Center to actually take the New York Times Magazine issue and make it into a curriculum, then it was clear that they were not just interested in a magazine. They were interested in indoctrination. The Pulitzer Center now claims that the curriculum, the 1619 Project curriculum has been absorbed in something like 3,500 classrooms across the country, which is a pretty significant footprint. But we said, “You know what? Let’s fight fire with fire.” It’s really important that we don’t demonize many of these teachers [who’ve] not necessarily bought into a “propagandistic” view of the United States. They actually had a yearning to tell a more complete story of the African-American experience in the United States. And so if you actually start with that premise, then it’s not to demonize these folks, because they basically thought, “Well, the 1619 Project was the only game in town.”
(16:42) So we at the 1776 Unites team said, “Let’s create a curriculum that is an empowering alternative that tells stories that are incredibly just ignored in New York Times’s 1619 Project.” So it became clear to us that this was a cherry-picked version of American history that was determined to create and to fulfill a contemporary propagandistic agenda. And so we have now built the first stage of what will ultimately be a K-12 curriculum, completely philanthropic. We support it, so it’s free to anyone who wants it in the country. We launched it about four months ago. So right now, only at the high school level, we’ve already had more than 8,000 downloads of this, the 1776 unites curriculum. And again, that’s only for grades 9-12. All the other components are coming. (…)
(17:44): What I’m finding is that there are a number of state school board members, local school board members who are very uncomfortable with what the 1619 Project has to offer, but A) they don’t really know that there’s a compelling alternative. And B) they need more of us to either run for school board or do presentations at school boards to point out these flaws. And I think, I think there’s a greater opposition than you might appreciate right now. (…) One of the biggest things about the 1619 Project is everything it omits, because it would clash with the narrative. The fact that there’s so little mentioned [of] Frederick Douglas, for example, and all the things Dr. Morel has said about President Lincoln. So 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, here’s what Martin Luther King said in his opening paragraph, “If our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, its contribution to civilization would be imperishable. The first of these documents is the Declaration of Independence. And the other is that which we are here to honor tonight: The Emancipation Proclamation. All tyrants, past, present, and future are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, no matter how vast their power, no matter how malignant their evil.”
(19:25) I think Dr. Martin Luther King was somewhat prophetic when he made those words, because you could really see the architects of the New York Times’s 1619 Project trying to tell a very different story… We, as a country, are constantly in pursuit of becoming a more perfect union. And the way that we arrive at that place is an embrace of our founding principles, not a rejection of them. And that’s why we have to stand against the New York Times’s 1619 Project. (…)
(19:58) A question I think that a lot of people would like an answer to is, what can they do? So if you’re a parent and you see some of the stuff filtering into your school, or this is up for discussion that maybe the local school board is going to take this up, what can they do? (…)
William A. Jacobson
(20:21) Show up, okay. The people who show up are the people who tend to get their way at the local level. Who shows up for school board meetings? It’s tends to be the activist. It tends to be the people who care. And we’re at home. We’re cooking dinner or getting the kids ready. We’re not showing up. And I think that if your local school board is this material object to it, show up and object to it. Ask them to sponsor some sort of debate about it. Ask them to bring in alternatives. But you have to show up, and you have to make your voices known. Because the people who were pushing this stuff, this is what they do. They are obsessed with this stuff, whether it’s critical race theory, whether it’s anti racism training, whether it is social justice. They are passionate about it. And they don’t necessarily do nefarious things behind the scenes. They show up. They get themselves on the committees. They take over the Parent Teacher Association. They make themselves at home and heard. If I had one recommendation [it] is, if you’re upset about what is going on, you cannot be complacent. It’s not going to self-correct. You have to get involved. There are more people who don’t believe this and who were upset about it, I guarantee you, than people who actually support this stuff. And the people who are against it have to show up. (…)
(21:57) [There are] people all over the country doing this work. There are people all over the country who are showing up at school boards, who are concerned about these things, and that many more that are concerned about these things and feeling lost and feeling alone. We [feel] alone, or you [feel] alone. But I just want to remind you that those some days [when] it might look that way, you are not. (…)
(22:18) It’s a very powerful point. Just to give you a sense, I’m practicing what I preach because earlier today I submitted my candidacy for the Pelham New York School Board to become a member of the school board in my hometown for the exact reasons that you say. And in my position statement, I talk about the need for us to tell a more complete history. And it’s quite amazing how many of my neighbors are extremely supportive parents. So for example, in the city of Aspen, believe it or not, they were considering implementing the 1619 Project. It looks like now that is on hold, based on a number of actions taken by the local school board and some parents in that community. (…)
(23:06) And we also have a resource page on CriticalRace.org, which is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation. (…)
William A. Jacobson
(23:14) [We can] measure, to tell you, how much interest there is out there in pushing back. So we rolled out CriticalRace.org in early February. I was fortunate enough to have a TV appearance on Tucker Carlson. I was on at 8:30 to announce it. By midnight that night, we had 400,000 page views. We had 79,000 people on the website at one time, which is insane. I can tell you as someone who’s [been] running a website for thirteen years, it’s a miracle it didn’t crash. That’s the sort of interest there was. By the next day, we had a million, and it hasn’t kept that pace, but, the point is, there’s enormous, enormous interest. (…) There is an enormous interest out there. We hear every day from multiple parents saying, they’re disgusted with what’s going on. But the other message I get is people feel like they’re being swarmed, that this came out of nowhere. And in 2020, all of a sudden it’s coming from the government. It’s coming from corporations. It’s coming in their kindergarten. It’s coming in their universities. Don’t be overwhelmed by it. Solve whatever you can solve and give support to other people. It’s taking a little time to organize because people feel like it came out of nowhere. We know it didn’t come out of nowhere, but they feel that way. And I think this time, next year, there will be a very strong movement pushing back against this. It’s developing already. (…)
(24:59) It’s a sphere that is really still organic. And it’s just now mobilizing. It’s just now organizing. So get involved where you can and in the ways that you can. Doing a little bit is so much better than doing nothing at all, because you can’t assume someone else’s going to step up and do this for you. Our kids are worth it. Their future is worth it. The future of our country is worth it. (…) This is another question that we have, and she asks, “Is it too late? Critical race training and the 1619 Project [have] taken hold in the media, the culture, the Academy, and now corporations. How can we effectively think about battling it from the outside?” (…)
William A. Jacobson
(25:44) There are people who saw academia as a path to activism, and that has now migrated from the universities into the lower grades. So is it a bad situation? Absolutely, it is a bad situation, but to me, it’s an unnatural situation that cannot continue. There’s going to be pushback to this. And when the pushback comes, I think it’s going to be extremely strong. And I think it’s going to be extremely productive, but I wouldn’t even think about whether it’s too late. I would just get up every morning and go to the school board and fight the fights you can fight. Don’t worry about those massive questions because otherwise you’ll get depressed, and you’ll lack motivation. And that’s what they want. They would like, the people who are fomenting this, would like all of us on this video and everyone we know to say, “It’s too late. It’s over… It’s a waste of my time to go to the school meeting to the school committee meeting.” I just think we can’t even think about that. (…)
(26:51) Bob Woodson often says to me, “In the fight against between David versus Goliath…remember David won.” And I would say, it’s a good reminder. And, and again, I just view this as there’s been a bit of a head start, and we are catching up. (…)
William A. Jacobson
(27:12) It’s really important that people do something. I almost don’t care what you do, but do something. And when we have millions of people doing something, they’re not going to know what hit them, just like the proprietors of the 1619 Project who thought they were the masters of the universe, and then they got hit with some truth. And then [the project] got hit with some criticism, and they got hit with some negative publicity. And now they’re back on their heels. They haven’t given up, but they’re back on their heels. So we need millions of people to reclaim the education system, to rescue history and education. And if everybody does a little something, they will not know what hit them.
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