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Iowa Republicans propose bill to ban the 1619 Project in schools

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The bill will be considered by the state House Education Committee

Raquel Zaldivar/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Iowa Republicans on Tuesday advanced a bill that would cut funding for schools that teach the New York Times' 1619 Project as part of their history curriculum.

The Des Moines Register reported that the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Skyler Wheeler (R) would ban schools, colleges, and regents institutions from teaching the 1619 Project or "any similarly developed curriculum" in U.S. history classes.

The 1619 Project, published in 2019, originally claimed that the "true founding" of the United States occurred when the first African slave ship arrived in Virginia in 1619 and that "anti-black racism runs in the very DNA" of America. Historians have attacked the project for inaccurately reframing American history, calling it "anti-historical," "one-sided," and "wrong." In September 2020, the New York Times stealth-edited its statement describing the 1619 project to remove the controversial claim that 1619 was "our true founding."

Wheeler's bill advanced out of a three-person subcommittee Tuesday with Republican support and will next be considered by the state House Education Committee. According to the Hill, the bill bans schools for using "any United States history curriculum that in whole or in part is derived from a project by the New York Times, known as the '1619 Project,' or any similarly developed curriculum." It also stipulates that school districts that ignore the ban will have their budgets "reduced by one one-hundred-eightieth for each day of the previous budget year for which the school district used school curriculum."

The text of the legislation accuses the 1619 Project of attempting to "deny or obfuscate the fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded."

"The 1619 Project seeks to tear down America, not lift her up," Wheeler said. "It seeks to divide, not unify. It aims to distort facts, not merely teach them. It does so as leftist political propaganda masquerading as history."

The legislation received pushback from Rep. Ras Smith (D).

"I'm the first Smith not born on the same plantation where my father was born, where his mother was born, where his grandmother was born," Smith, who is black, said. "America has that opportunity for diverse thought, rigorous debate, about what it means to be an American."

The 1619 Project's lead author, Nikole Hannah Jones, an Iowa native, also spoke out against the proposed ban, calling it embarrassing for the state.

"The 1619 Project is a work of journalism. It uses historical facts and historiography to illuminate a part of our country and our story that we don't know enough about," Hannah-Jones told the Des Moines Register.

"I don't think those seeking to prohibit the teaching of the 1619 Project have engaged with the project," she said. "I don't think they've read it ... I don't think they've talked to educators about how they're using it in their classrooms."

According to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, more than 4,500 teachers across the United States have incorporated materials provided by the Center to teach the 1619 Project in schools.

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