The Three Rs: Reading, Writing, and Reparations?

Jonathan Turley:

The 1619 Project Education Network, in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center, have released a new curriculum for high school students that will convert some math classes into a discussion of reparations and racial justice.  Students will be asked to work out the math on the payment for past years of slavery and racial discrimination. A 2020 report found that prior 1619 Project curriculum proposals have been adopted in over 3,500 classrooms across all 50 states.The program, “Reparations Math and Reparations History,” is designed to have “students apply math skills, research into historical wealth gaps in the U.S., and an analysis of different reparations models to an investigation into whether or not reparations should be paid to the descendents of enslaved people in the U.S..”The 1619 Project has long been controversial due to questions over its historical accuracy, including opposition by some history teachers. The project is most associated with former New York Times writer and now Howard University Professor Nikole Hannah-Smith.  Hannah-Smith has declared that “all journalism is activism.”

As previously discussed, the objections to the 1619 Project concerned some of its sweeping historical claims over slavery being a motivation for the American Revolution and labeling figures like Abraham Lincoln as racists.

According to The Atlantic, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz criticized that work and some of Hannah-Jones’s other work in a letter signed by scholars James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes. They raised “matters of verifiable fact” that “cannot be described as interpretation or ‘framing.’” They objected that the work represented “a displacement of historical understanding by ideology.” The Atlantic noted that “given the stature of the historians involved, the letter is a serious challenge to the credibility of the 1619 Project, which has drawn its share not just of admirers but also critics.” Researchers claimed the New York Times ignored them in raising the errors. The New York Times was criticized later for a “clarification” that undermined a main premise of her writing. None of that appeared to concern the Pulitzer Committee.