Memory  /  Argument

We Found the Textbooks of Senators Who Oppose The 1619 Project and Suddenly Everything Makes Sense

To our surprise, most received a well-rounded education on the history of Black people in America. Just kidding.

While they generally oppose Critical Race Theory, the academic movement started by Black scholars, they have historically embraced the uncapitalized version of race theory. However, because so many see whiteness as a default, they don’t understand that their entire education has already been racialized. The fact that most people know about Betsy Ross’ amazing ability to sew or Paul Revere’s talent for riding and yelling, but have never heard of Mary Ellen Pleasant or Colonel Tye is proof that the American education system is filtered through the lens of whiteness.

So when Mitch McConnell and 38 Republican senators sent a letter to the secretary of education decrying the ghastly prospect of white students having to learn actual facts about slavery, it was not unexpected. For centuries, this country’s schools have perpetuated a whitewashed version of history that either erases or reduces the story of Black America down to a B-plot in the American script. It’s why they hate Critical Race Theory, The 1619 Projectand anything factual—because the white-centric interpretation of our national past is so commonly acceptedwhite people have convinced themselves that anything that varies from the Caucasian interpretation must be a lie. 

This is not new,” Jelani Cobb told The Root. “One of the most under-discussed topics in education is the role slavery plays in the early history of the country.

Cobb, a journalist and educator, earned a Ph.D. in American history under the supervision of David L. Lewis, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his two-volume Biography of W. E. B. Dubois, the American giant whose early works provided the template for the study of the history of Black people in America. As a professor at institutions from Columbia University to the historically Black Spelman College, Cobb notes that the “propaganda of history” has been so whitewashed that most people don’t realize that they learned a whitewashed version of America’s founding.

“It is important to realize that all history is revisionist history,” Cobb explained. “The established historiographies are constantly revised as we learn more information.”

Even though no teacher in America has been hogtied and forced to teach the curriculum devised by historians, journalists and people who know things, The Root was curious. If The 1619 Project is an attempt to rewrite history, which version of history does the GOP fear is being altered?