Politics & Policy

Black Leaders Launch ‘1776 Unites’ High School Curriculum as ‘Inspirational Alternative’ to NYT’s 1619 Project

An illustration of the Declaration of Independence against the backdrop of an American flag (smartstock/Getty Images)

Two black leaders are launching “1776 Unites,” a new high school curriculum that aims to combat victimhood culture in American society by telling the stories of black Americans who have prospered by embracing America’s founding ideals.

Civil rights veteran Bob Woodson and Ian Rowe, a charter school leader, gave remarks Wednesday on the new curriculum and what they hope it will accomplish for young black students and students of all races.

The curriculum’s goal is to “let millions of young people know about these incredible stories, African-Americans past and present, innovative, inventive, who faced adversity, did not view themselves as victims, and chose pathways to be agents of their own uplift,” said Rowe, who is also a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The curriculum says it will present “life lessons from largely unknown, heroic African-American figures from the past and present who triumphed over adverse conditions” and aims to help young people of all races “be architects of their own future by embracing the principles of education, family, free enterprise, faith, hard work and personal responsibility.”

Woodson said that the values the curriculum seeks to promote are currently being “threatened” by the New York Times’s 1619 Project, the controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning historical project that says it “aims to reframe the country’s history” by positing that 1619 — the year the first slave was brought to North America — represents the country’s true founding.

The apparent message of the 1619 Project, Woodson said, is “that America should be defined as a racist society where all whites are culpable and guilty of having privilege and therefore should be punished and all blacks are victims that should be compensated,” a conclusion that he called “a very corrosive and dangerous challenge to these traditional values.”

However, Woodson emphasized that “1776 Unites” not meant to be a “debate” with the 1619 Project, but an “inspirational alternative.”

“Some of the most well-respected historians in the country have overwhelmingly discredited and rejected key elements of the 1619 Project,” Rowe said. “We’re not in competition with them, but it is important to highlight the contrast that exists.”

Indeed, many historians have disputed claims made in the 1619 Project, some even demanding that the Times issue corrections of the project’s “errors and distortions.”

The first installment of the 1776 Unites curriculum includes lessons for high school students, and K-8 modules are slated to be released soon. New lesson content will be released for free each month as parents and teachers provide feedback on the lessons, which are designed to supplement history and English courses. Already, the curriculum has been requested by schools in the charter sector as well as by school districts across the country, Rowe said.

Every day, the curriculum’s builders say they hear about new inspirational African-American figures that they think should be included in the lesson plans.

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