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Sen. Cotton Introduces Bill to Cut Funding to Schools Teaching ‘1619 Project’

Sen. Tom Cotton / Getty Images

Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) introduced a bill Tuesday which would prohibit the use of federal funds to teach the New York Times‘s 1619 Project in public schools.

The bill—titled the Saving American History Act of 2020would require secretaries from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to cut federal funding to schools choosing to implement the 1619 Project into their curriculum. The amount of funds cut from public schools would depend on teaching and planning costs for the 1619 Project curriculum. Federal funding for low-income and special-needs students would not be affected by the bill.

"The New York Times’s 1619 Project is a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded," Cotton said. "Not a single cent of federal funding should go to indoctrinate young Americans with this left-wing garbage."

Nikole Hannah-Jones—the principal author of the 1619 Project—responded to Cotton’s bill on Thursday. "This bill speaks to the power of journalism more than anything I’ve ever done in my career," she said.

The 1619 Project is a series of essays, podcasts, and other media efforts by the New York Times to shed new light on the role of race in the founding of the United States. Its argument is that America’s founding legacy can be traced as early as 1619—when African slaves first arrived in the British North American colonies—rather than the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Catching much traction in progressive circles, the project has not been immune to criticism. Several of the nation’s top historians drafted a letter in December 2019 to express their "reservations" about the project’s historical veracity. 

"It still strikes me as amazing why the New York Times would put its authority behind a project that has such weak scholarly support," said Gordon Wood, a National Humanities Medal recipient at Brown University.

Hannah-Jones has stirred up additional controversy in recent months. Destruction of property is "not violence," Hannah-Jones commented after protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd became violent riots.

Some in Washington worry about the 1619 Project’s politicization of human rights. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unloaded on the effort in a speech last week, arguing that "our rights tradition is under assault."

"The Chinese Communist Party must be gleeful when they see the New York Times spout this ideology," Pompeo warned.