The 1619 Project published by The New York Times took the country by storm, with many praising the effort. However, others were not as impressed and were deeply concerned about how the Project portrayed America’s history and people.
To counter the 1619 Project narrative and curriculum infecting the education system across the country, the Woodson Center, led by Bob Woodson, established the 1776 Initiative, which “is a movement of ordinary Americans working together for the common good.”
“We were really concerned that the 1619 Project used a group of black journalists to construct a document that really redefined American history and defined it on a foundation of slavery,” Woodson, the founder of 1776 Unites, said in an interview with The Daily Citizen. “It went on to conclude that as a consequence that America is incurably racist from its core and that all whites are villains to be punished and that blacks are victims to be pitied and paid.”
Woodson, who has spent over 40 years in the neighborhood empowerment movement and as a civil rights activist, believes that the 1619 Project is using the legacy of the Civil Rights movement as a “bludgeon against the country.” To help combat this, it was crucial to Woodson that the 1776 Initiative, established at the Woodson Center, be black led with other experts contributing as well.
“It wasn’t to offer a counter debate to 1619, it was to offer an inspirational and aspirational counter narrative,” Woodson explained. “That’s what we’ve created in the past year. Out of it, 1619 curriculum is being used all over the country, and we’ve offered our own and it has been well received.”
Published in August 2019, the 1619 Project set to redefine America’s history and argued that the date of its founding shouldn’t be 1776, but 1619 when the first slave ship arrived in Virginia.
“First of all, they said that the Revolutionary War was in defense of slavery, well that just wasn’t true. And they finally had to acknowledge that, and they backtracked on it and acknowledged that it was not true, but that was on the foundation of which Nicole Hannah Jones won a Pulitzer Prize,” Woodson said.
There were other inaccuracies as well.
“They said that some of the current and contemporary challenges facing large segments of black America were related to this legacy of slavery and discrimination and Jim Crow. This is just not true, and we demonstrated through our essays and research that black America was not defined by oppression but defined by resilience. We document the fact that there were blacks who were born slaves and died millionaires.”
The 1776 Initiative is also able to show how the rampant of out-of-wedlock births and crimes within the black community are not the legacy of slavery, but a phenomenon that developed over the last 50 years.
“We demonstrated through our research and examples that during the 1930s and 1940s, when the country was in the Great Depression, the black community had the highest marriage rate of any group in society,” Woodson said. “The black community was able to thrive because of its Christian faith and, also, because of the importance of the nuclear family.”
This research has now been included in a historical curriculum series that is now being utilized in schools across the country. For educators, many of whom have been pushed to embrace the 1619 Project curriculum, it’s a lifeline and an alternative to the critical race theory.
“The first week we released the first three curricula, we received 5,000 downloads from educators. The 1619 had only about 4,500 downloads in the course of an entire year. We had that in just six days. There’s a thirst for it,” Woodson explained.
“We are getting calls almost every day from members of school boards. We had a meeting yesterday with a school board in Utah. We addressed a school board in Ohio,” Woodson said. “A lot of superintendents and educators are desperately looking for other sources so that they can offer some alternatives to the 1619 false history. I think as more people hear about it—it’s really creating a demand for it. Every day we hear from school board members or civic groups who are concerned about the racialization of their school system.”
(The 1776 Unites continues to issue new material and is working on growing the curriculum that covers grades K-12.)
One of the examples of this radicalization in the schools is the San Diego School District (SDSD), which instituted a radical policy to combat what it considered racist grading. As part of the program, the SDSD will no longer require students to turn in assignments due to a small percentage of minority students failing. Similar things are happening in school districts across the country.
“We’re getting from absolutely ridiculous expressions of wokeness in America, and it’s adversely affecting our school children. The most vulnerable are the ones that are the target of this downgraded curriculum that is being foisted upon the American public,” Woodson said.
“Even the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture released a guide saying whiteness is delayed gratification, hard work, perseverance, self-determination, all these are being white. That is the most insulting to black Americans. What they’re saying is to be authentically black, you don’t come to work on time, you’re not competitive, that’s what racists used to use in the 20s and 30s with Jim Crow. That’s how they used to characterize blacks, to debase them. Now so-called progressives are using the same descriptions and characterizations to describe authentic blackness. It is the most fascinating turn of events you can imagine.”
This woke mindset, exemplified by the SDSD, the Smithsonian and the 1619 Project, does America no favors. Instead of fixating on the problems of the past, the best thing to do is to remember and honor those that went before, while looking to the future with hope.
“No individual or nation should be judged by the worst of what we were,” Woodson said. “Slavery was America’s birth defect, but America is also defined through its Judeo-Christian heritage and faith as a country of redemption and second chances. That’s why we have a Constitution, which is a document that compels us to correct ourselves. We are the only nation on the face of the earth that ever fought a war to end slavery. We are the only nation that has an Emancipation Proclamation.
“So that’s what we should be defined by America’s promise, never totally by America’s problem.”
Woodson has released a book entitled Lessons from the Least of These: The Woodson Principles, where he shares how suffering in communities can be alleviated not necessarily by government programs, but by empowering leaders within the community that have the trust and confidence of the people. This allows solutions that can be produced from the inside out.
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