Snodgrass: President Trump’s threat to defund schools over 1619 project is empty but concerning.

The 1619 Project aims to teach the struggles African-Americans faced and their contributions  to America.

The New York Times / Public domain

The 1619 Project aims to teach the struggles African-Americans faced and their contributions to America.

By Jillian Snodgrass, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science

Slavery and its consequences have affected every aspect of the United States’ history, and therefore should be placed at the center of historical education. That’s the essence of The New York Times’ 1619 project, which many schools across the nation, especially in California, are planning to implement into their history curriculum. 

The project has been controversial since its inception in 2019. Last Sunday, President Trump tweeted saying, “[The] Department of Education is looking at this. If so, [the schools using the 1619 project] will not be funded!” While this statement does not differentiate from his usual remarks, those who, like me, see immense value in the project are nonetheless left in shock.

With its sets of beautifully written and informative essays by such authors as Bryan Stevenson (founder of the Equal Justice Initiative), the 1619 project connects the dots between modern issues and past injustices; America’s wealth gap, lack of universal healthcare, problems with the prison system and more can all be traced back to enslavement and segregation. 

This project displays the big picture of American history and how each and every event affects everything else. If taught in schools, it could help students realize how the aftermath of slavery is still felt today, which in turn would increase understanding of racial bias and injustices. This is vital in the midst of a surge in white supremacy across the nation. Why would we not teach students the truth in a cohesive and concise manner, especially when their own futures are at stake? 

With a history steeped deeply in slavery and segregation, Mississippi, in particular, could benefit from the 1619 project. Our state possesses an unfortunate track record of hate and discrimination that continues to this day; this project has the potential to change this if executed quickly and appropriately in our schools. 

Thankfully, it is not within President Trump’s power to defund schools that choose to use the 1619 project in their curriculum. However, the sentiment behind his statement still exists, and it exists as a worrisome one. We must ask ourselves why the president would believe the project to be harmful enough to deny children vital funding over it. The truth of the matter is that members of the Trump administration do not believe systemic racism exists, even while evidence points to the contrary. This denial of evidence gives a voice to white supremacists, creating an even greater need for the project to be taught.

The 1619 project is set to become an essential part of the United States’ history curriculum, and despite his statement, President Trump cannot legally stop it. This program will foster understanding and communication and should be implemented in schools nationwide.

This story was originally published on The Vision MSMS on September 16, 2020.