Teaching the 1619 Project
“The 1619 Project” Annual Meeting Deeper Dive session on Friday, February 26, 11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. features Mary Elliott, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and Christina Sneed, high school AP English teacher in University City Schools (outside of St. Louis, MO) who taught The 1619 Project and authored the curriculum resources for The Pulitzer Center’s 1857 Project. Inspired by The 1619 Project (which reframes U.S. history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the historical narrative), The 1857 Project examines the Dred Scott decision and the Lincoln-Douglass Debate. In this article, Sneed shares insight into her experience teaching The 1619 Project to higher schoolers and how educators can successfully implement it across curriculum.
I’ve been sharing my approach to teaching with the New York Times’ 1619 Project and was disturbed to read an article where Rodriguez (2021) explained that Republican lawmakers in five states (one in which I live) are introducing legislation to “punish schools that provide lessons derived from this project.” Unfortunately, we’ve seen this strategy used throughout history as a method to manipulate national memory. It forces reflection on the quandary, “Who gets to write history?” The answer is rooted in white supremacy. Recollect America’s Reconstruction period when the United Daughters of the Confederacy distorted the narrative surrounding who won the Civil War by using propaganda, monuments, and education-based indoctrination. They created state-sanctioned counter narratives that still plague America. Recently, Republicans used this tactic to establish the 1776 Commission in opposition to the 1619 Project. Such acts stem from fear that, if average Americans learn accurate accounts of history—without white washing, omission, erasure—white men will lose power. They fear teachers will inform students of America’s ugliest parts and sell a version of history that negatively depicts certain groups of people in order to create ”heroes” and “patriots” in others (what they’ve been guilty of for centuries).