As they began work on what would become the U.S. Constitution, the Founding Fathers were faced with unique challenges for America if it could ever hope to exist as a political force in the world of that time. To make it possible, all the 13 colonies would have to first find a way to stand together as a united nation. If they stood alone, they wouldn’t have a chance.
From their beginnings each colony had developed independently, dictated by the culture of those who founded it. Geographic conditions in each region and the economies suited for each of them directed how each development would proceed. It was easy to see that some rules of confederation would be needed that would satisfy the cultures of each region and still be able to function as a united force. No agreement could have been reached without compromise, thus the reason for a less than perfect document, but with the mechanics to achieve its ultimate goals. A Bill of Rights — the first ten amendments — was included in the final copy and pointed the way to correct inequities when it was politically possible.
As the history of the U.S unfolded and opportunities for improvements were presented, correct action was taken that resulted in the adding of 17 additional amendments. Each intended to correct problems that would not have been possible from the start.
I would guarantee that no school system in Lansing is being allowed to approach this subject in this manner. It worked for me for many years because I was allowed to do what teachers should be doing — teach the truth. This should apply to our schools, but also to the community.
The 1619 Project wants to replace the real facts with revisionist history, and they are being allowed to do that. The 1619 Project began in the New York Times magazine as a special issue that examined the modern-day legacy of the institution of slavery in U.S. History. It was a series of essays, images, stories, and poems that challenged readers to reframe their understanding of U.S history by considering 1619 as the start of this nation’s history.
As an experienced U.S history teacher I am deeply offended by the project and what it is trying to achieve. The residents of Lansing should ask for an explanation. Why is revisionist history being taught, and who is responsible?
The readings involved include, “The Idea of America” by Nickole Hanna Jones. She makes the statement, “Our Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776, proclaims that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. But the white men who drafted those words did not believe them to be true for the hundreds of thousands of black people in their midst.”
That one statement expresses an ignorance of American history or a plan to manipulate it. The author should be asked to list the slave-owning Founding Fathers. No one would hesitate to name Thomas Jefferson, but finding a second one would be difficult.
A follow-up would be to identify the avowed anti-slavery members of the 56 signers. There were many. In the case of Jefferson, you might want to consider what he wrote in later years, at a period in his life when his judgement had become ripe: “There is preparing, I hope, under the auspices of heaven a way for a total emancipation.” Today’s uninformed protestors do not honor this conversion and proceed to tear down his statues.
Finally, it should be understood that America was not yet America in 1609, so when did slavery become systemic as we are being told?
Another article “Chained Migration” by Tiya Miles continues the delusion. “Slavery leapt out of the East and into the interior lands of the Southwest in the *1820s and the 1830s.” She does not establish the Americans who fought against it. And why is that?
The author neglected to say that in 1789 Congress passed a law prohibiting slavery in all federal lands under development in the West. She also avoided the fact that in 1808 Congress abolished the slave trade.
The Pulitzer Center, the promoters of the movement, provides a learning guide suggesting questions for discussion on each topic, such as, “How was the expansion of the U.S shaped and made possible by slave labor?” The answer is simple. Slave labor was not needed in the developing of the West. Every man was able to make his own way, if he wanted to.
Another offered question asked, “When did freed black Americans begin to travel west, and why?” The answer is again simply that they could do whatever they wanted to take advantage of the opportunities being provided.
The other Reading Guides for the 1619 Project essays give summary of 18 other topics included in this mission. All are critical of American history. How would you expect our children to react if they are being educated following these guidelines?
The Lansing Human Relations Committee in its search for answers could contact the Lansing School Districts to get their input about what is being explained here. But the entire story of what Project 1619 is hiding could go on.
Once independence was attained, the new American government had to deal with an exploding population and what to do about it. Going west was the only option. The challenge was to do this in a way that would adhere to the principles established in the Constitution and still keep the existing cultures, values, and economies of not colonies anymore, but parts of a whole that would still satisfy basic needs of regions that they representing. Compromise would be needed to stay united until it was socially, politically, and economically possible to be addressed. Political parties were forming to represent the interests of their region and political accommodations would have to be made.
Project 1619 shows that it has no understanding of these historical realities and preaches that U.S. history can be explained without recording the nuances behind its problems. If they want to sell their position, they would have to investigate the national politics of that time and distribute blame appropriately, if they wanted to.
And if they wanted to protest, only direct their attention to those who wanted to expand slavery and commend all who opposed slavery. It doesn’t fly, blaming the entire country for what was advocated by parts of it.
By 1820 the Democratic Party had become the majority in Congress, and new policies emerged under their control. Keep in mind, a law passed in Congress prohibiting slavery in federal territories was already on the books. These lands were being settled at that time and expressed interests in being admitted to the U.S. And this development proposed a new problem: Would the new states be admitted as pro-slave or anti-slave?
The Democratic Party supported what was called the Missouri Compromise in the newly developed territories as a way to keep the existing balance in Congress between slave and free states. They authorized that existing law to be changed, so slavery could survive in parts of the Missouri Territory that was begin formed into states.
Should the 1619 Project recognize those who fought hard to eliminate the institution of slavery? Their agenda is to disregard these facts, and this is made possible because of a lack of education of American history.
Several other pro-slavery measures were also passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress, but political oppositions were forming. If America had a systemic racism engrained in its fabric, where did the organized resistance come from that would result in a civil war? The problems would be exacerbated because of an inability of the country to find acceptance of what clearly is possible to come together, if reason was applied in discussing solutions.
But that is another story. Politicians chose to follow a path to make things worse. In 1850 the Democrat-controlled Congress passed a fugitive slavery law that required northerners to return escaped slaves back to the South. Anti-slavery protest movements continued to react, but politicians did not get the message.
In 1854 the still Democratically-controlled Congress passed another law to strengthen the institution of slavery: the Kansan-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska territory was west of the Missouri territory. This was too much for the political factions opposed to the expansion of pro-slavery, and they coalesced into forming a new national political party calling themselves Republicans.
The essays making up the 1619 Project do not mention these historical facts. The project prefers to concentrate on breeding hatred instead of unifications. All who read this might want to ask why. I will continue to teach this history in future posts and then ask Lansing to discuss who is right.
Local Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writers, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.