The New York Times’ Nikole Hannah-Jones continues to live rent-free in Republican heads, with Sen. Tom Cotton pushing Senate legislation to penalize schools for using a curriculum based on the 1619 Project. Hannah-Jones spearheaded the project, which "seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution,” as the project was described when she won the Pulitzer Prize for her essay.
”The 1619 Project is left-wing propaganda. It’s revisionist history at its worst,” Cotton told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Cotton’s view? “We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can’t understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction.”
So … it’s left-wing propaganda for Hannah-Jones to put slavery and its legacy at the center of U.S. history, but the Founding Fathers saw slavery as “the necessary evil upon which the union was built.” If it was a necessary evil according to the people who defined the basis of the nation, then yeah, it’s necessary to put slavery at the center of our history.
Cotton said he rejects, “root and branch,” the idea “that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable.” But again, he really took that “necessary evil” thing and ran with it.
Hannah-Jones challenged Cotton, asking “Were the Founders right or wrong, @TomCottonAR, when they called slavery a ‘necessary evil upon which the Union was built’? Because either you agree with their assessment of slavery as necessary or you admit they were lying and it was just an evil and dishonorable choice. Which?”
Cotton’s is an attempt to counter a status quo history curriculum that has its own politics.
“The way that history is taught in American schools is highly politicized and it really has a nationalistic agenda,” Hannah-Jones recently told WBUR. “What that has meant is that it has necessarily downplayed the role of slavery.”
School districts including Chicago, Washington, and Buffalo are adopting the 1619 Project curriculum, and Cotton sees this as his chance to elevate himself in the Trumpian culture wars, sending a strong message that he intends to continue sidelining Black people in U.S. history—and, onlookers can infer, in other ways.