McConnell issues letter to remove ‘1619 Project’ from federal grant programs

McConnell said the project is being used to “double down on divisive, radical, and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda"

A group of politicians led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona requesting that the 1619 Project be removed from education resources eligible for federal grant programs.

The letter, signed by McConnell and 38 other Republican senators, said the coronavirus pandemic damaged the United States school systems and it is now time to “strengthen the teaching of civics and American history in our schools.”

Read More: 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones joins UNC faculty

“We write to express grave concern with the Department’s effort to reorient the bipartisan American History and Civics Education programs, including the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics and the National Activities programs, away from their intended purposes toward a politicized and divisive agenda,” the letter began.

Senate Republicans Hold Weekly Policy Luncheon
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 27: U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) arrives at a news briefing after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill April 27, 2021 in Washington, DC. Senate GOPs held their weekly policy luncheon to discuss Republican agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

There is a list of teaching materials that, if incorporated into a school’s curriculum, makes said schools eligible for federal grants. Amongst these materials is the 1619 Project. The letter urged the Education Department to remove it from the list. According to the GOP, the landmark historical reading is being used to “double down on divisive, radical, and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda.”

“Actual, trained, credentialed historians with diverse political views have debunked the project’s many factual and historical errors, such as the bizarre and inaccurate notion that preserving slavery was a primary driver of the American Revolution,” the letter reads.

Read More: Hulu acquires ‘1619 Project’ docuseries produced by Oprah

The letter continues: “For example your Proposed Priorities applaud the New York Times’ “1629 Project.” This campaign to “reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding” has become infamous for putting ill-informed advocate ahead of historical accuracy.”

“Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us” the Republican senators claimed.

The Hill reported that a Department of Education spokesperson responded to the letter and said: “The background of the Notice of Proposed Priorities includes examples of how institutions and individuals are finally acknowledging the legacy of systemic inequities in this country and paying attention to it. The Department welcomes comments on the Proposed Priorities until May 19, 2021.”

Former President Donald Trump made his own efforts to discredit the 1619 Project. He launched the 1776 Commission which was dissolved by President Joe Biden. As theGrio previously reported, the former POTUS and other Republicans shared disdain for the project. Trump claimed the project pushed forward the idea that “America is a wicked and racist nation.” He threatened to cut funding from schools that used the project for educational purposes.

President Biden Delivers First Address To Joint Session Of Congress
WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 28: U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. On the eve of his 100th day in office, Biden spoke about his plan to revive America’s economy and health as it continues to recover from a devastating pandemic. He delivered his speech before 200 invited lawmakers and other government officials instead of the normal 1600 guests because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

According to theGrio in February shortly after Biden moved to dissolve the 1776 Commission, GOP lawmakers in Iowa pushed for budget cuts for schools that teach the 1619 Project. The proposal would reduce funding for any Iowa school district whose teachers use the acclaimed collection of writings initiated by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an Iowa native, in their history lessons. For her work on The 1619 Project, Hannah-Jones received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Republican state Rep. Skyler Wheeler introduced the legislation to reduce funding for not just teaching the 1619 Project, but any similar curriculum that “attempts to deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.”

This article contains additional reporting by theGrio’s Biba Adams.

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