Black Activists Create New Curriculum to Counter 1619 Project

1776 Unites co-founder Bob Woodson / YouTube screenshot
September 17, 2020

Black activists have created a new high school curriculum to combat the New York Times's 1619 Project, which they say omits black achievement.

Bob Woodson, a veteran of the civil rights movement, and Ian Rowe, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, created the 1776 Unites curriculum to share empowering historical stories of African Americans in the United States. The curriculum is a fundamental shift away from what its creators call the "victimhood mentality" of the 1619 Project, which teaches black students they face barriers to success due to systemic racism. Instead, 1776 Unites teaches students of all races how they can be "architects of their own future by embracing the principles of education, family, free enterprise, faith, hard work, and personal responsibility."

"[We] maintain a special focus on lesson plans that celebrate black excellence, reject victimhood culture, and showcase African Americans, past and present, who have prospered by embracing America's founding ideals," Rowe said. "The curriculum ... shows what is best in our national character and what our freedom makes possible even in the most difficult circumstances."

1776 Unites includes lessons on Biddy Mason, an enslaved woman turned Los Angeles millionaire and real estate mogul, and Elijah McCoy, an inventor who held 57 patents related to the locomotives. Rowe told the Washington Free Beacon that 1776 Unites will supplement local history curricula until the group can garner feedback from instructors, parents, and students. The ultimate goal is to have yearlong content available for all educators in all states.

Following the death of George Floyd, schools across the nation are developing curricula that integrate the 1619 Project and present slavery as the touchstone of American history. 1776 Unites was created to counter this view with examples of black achievement, not just oppression.

"Some of the most egregious things that I've seen [from the 1619 Project] is the omission of the accomplishments that blacks achieved in the face of oppression," Woodson said. "They ignore ... that 20 blacks were born slaves and died millionaires. There's no mention of that at all."

Some of 1776 Unites's lessons will focus on personal agency as students enter adulthood, including choices around higher education, full-time work, marriage, and children. Lessons will demonstrate how building strong families can increase the net worth of a household and close the racial wealth gap by increasing the transfer of intergenerational wealth.

Parents thrust into teaching roles by the coronavirus pandemic can also access the curriculum to supplement regular history education.

The lesson plans have received positive feedback from teachers already. Albert Paulsson, a high school social studies teacher from New Jersey, praised the curriculum for enriching black history with empowering stories.

"The 1776 Unites curriculum teaches that resilience in the face of opposition defines black America in particular, and there is a rich history of black Americans who rose above the harshest circumstances by embracing their own personal agency and living out the true founding values of our country," Paulsson said.

Julie Gunlock, a scholar at the Independent Women's Forum, told the Free Beacon that she's thrilled with the new developments.

"The 1776 project does tremendous work to correct the efforts of those who prefer historical fiction over historical accuracy," Gunlock said. "Their curriculum is an exciting pushback on efforts to deploy the ahistorical 1619 Project curriculum that so many schools use today."