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Trump says schools will lose funding if they add 1619 slavery project to curriculum

President’s campaign against history of slavery follows Republican senator’s bill proposing to ban it from schools entirely

Andrew Naughtie
Monday 07 September 2020 10:13 BST
Donald Trump on the 1619 Project: 'What does it represent?'

Donald Trump has said his Department of Education will defund public schools that include the 1619 Project in their teaching – reviving his claim that children are “taught in school to hate our country”.

However, his ability to cancel funding is strictly limited, and previous efforts on the part of Republicans to keep children from studying the project have so far come to nothing.

Mr Trump made his threat to the programme, which teaches the history of American slavery, while quoting a right-wing Twitter account, @Ocitman that claims that “california has implemented the 1619 project into the public schools. soon you wont (sic) recognize america”.

“Department of Education is looking at this,” wrote Mr Trump. “If so, they will not be funded!”

The threat to the use of the 1619 Project came after a barrage of tweets directed at critical race theory, a body of thought that Mr Trump called “a sickness that cannot be allowed to continue”.

“Please report any sightings so we can quickly extinguish!” he tweeted. The White House has issued a directive to all federal agencies to identify and cancel any contracts or programmes in which the subject is taught, calling it “propaganda” that is “contrary to all we stand for as Americans”.

The 1619 Project’s principal author and Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones pointed out the contradiction in Mr Trump’s threat to “cancel” the project and racial awareness training while he and many others are persistently railing against so-called “cancel culture” that supposedly sees their views ruthlessly eliminated from public life.

She also retweeted civil rights lawyer Dan Greenspahn pointing out that the Department of Education has been barred since its founding from exerting “any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system”.

Mr Trump is far from alone in his animosity toward the 1619 Project, which presents a programme of American history beginning with the year the first enslaved people were brought to the shores of the continent by Europeans.

Many Republicans have vocally turned against the project in the name of “safeguarding” their preferred renderings of America’s national historical narrative. Most notorious of all is Arkansas senator Tom Cotton, who introduced a bill in the US Senate – the Saving American History Act – that would prevent any federal money from going into teaching the programme.

At the time he introduced the bill, which is not expected to pass, Mr Cotton told an Arkansas newspaper that slavery “was the necessary evil upon which the union was built” and called the project “left-wing propaganda”.

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