It is a new day for Chicago school students.
The Chicago Sun-Times relates the coming of this new dawn on June 5, 2020.
“Chicago students started learning America’s real history.
“Not the whitewashed history, the disjointed one that jumps from European settlers “finding” America, to a sanitized version of slavery, to the Civil Rights Movement and finally to a seemingly racism-free present time.
“The one with white people having picnics to celebrate lynchings. The history of powerful black resistance music and art. The one with dismembered body parts displayed in storefronts and black perseverance and success through oppression.
“Black America’s history — America’s real history.”
The Fruit of 1619
What triggered this brave new world dawning, according to the Sun-Times, was the “1619 Project,” published by the New York Times on August 18, 2019. The 1619 Project serves as source material for much of this “real history.”
The lengthy Sun-Times article describes a variety of students’ reactions to learning this “real history.” While the students represent a spectrum of racial and ethnic groups, they all reached the same conclusion. If you want to make students hate America, The 1619 Project is an amazingly effective way to do it.
The problem with the project is that it is not really history much less real history. Historians on the left, the right and in the center have registered criticisms of 1619. It is so attached to its “narrative” that African slavery is the critical determinant in American History that it over-emphasizes some facts, distorts others, and leaves important events and personalities out of the story altogether. The story of this great nation must be bent to fit the concept of “systemic racism.”
Now a Chicago politician, State Representative LaShawn K. Ford, wants to export this historical distortion to the rest of the state. Until that goal is accomplished, the teaching of history in the Land of Lincoln should cease. No child must be left behind in this effort to make leftist activists out of the next generations of Illinois children.
The Situation in Illinois
WGN News quoted his motivations. “We’re concerned that current school history teachings lead to white privilege and a racist society.”
A press release from Mr. Ford’s office (quoted by NBC Chicago) adds more detail.
“When it comes to teaching history in Illinois, we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisan. I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history. Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved.” (Emphasis added.)
To accomplish this, Rep. Ford introduced an amendment to the state’s School Code, known as HB4954.
Why has the Law Been Ignored?
Representative Ford might want to brush up on Illinois law. In 2005, the Illinois General Assembly passed Public Act 094-0285. It amended a more general 1991 act of the Legislature that mandated “a unit of instruction studying the events of Black History.” That 2005 revision contained the following language.
“It is therefore desirable to create a Commission that, as an organized body and on a continuous basis, will survey, design, encourage, and promote the implementation of education and awareness programs in Illinois that are concerned with the African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in this country, and the contributions of African-Americans in building our country; to develop workshops, institutes, seminars, and other teacher training activities designed to educate teachers on this subject matter; and that will be responsible for the coordination of events on a regular basis, throughout the State, that provide appropriate memorialization of the events concerning the enslavement of Africans and their descendants in America and their struggle for freedom, liberty, and equality.”
The Amistad Commission
The Commission created by this act was called the Amistad Commission, after a ship taken over by Africans being illegally smuggled into the United States in 1839. They had to be smuggled in because the international slave trade became illegal after 1808.
The Amistad Commission published a curriculum. Its introduction is the only part available online. A search for “Amistad Curriculum” and “Amistad Commission” on the Illinois State Board of Education’s web site revealed only one subsequent mention – a summary of the law that created it.
Perhaps Rep. Ford’s time would be better spent investigating the Amistad Commission and the public dollars that they consumed. That investigation should extend to the state Department of Education and the various Illinois public school systems. If the schools ignored the 1991 and 2005 laws, it is long past time to discover the reasons why.
Only one news story about the Commission pops up in a more general Internet search. The story mentions that one of the Commission’s members was Jeremiah Wright, then-Senator Barack Obama’s pastor. Some of Dr. Wright’s Anti-American comments made quite a stir when they were made public during the 2008 presidential campaign. Surely, Dr. Wright was not part of a conspiracy to conceal African-Americans’ role in U.S. History.
During the nineties, Rep. Ford was a history teacher and basketball coach for the Chicago Public Schools. He must, therefore, know that his assertions about hidden African-American history are flatly untrue.
The Curriculum Already Includes African-American History
Since the early eighties, there has been a concerted attempt to include the history of African Americans within the context of American History courses. Having participated in that process in the public schools of Miami, Florida (1984-1999) and Maryland (2001-2018), this author taught about the “African slave trade, slavery in America, the vestiges of slavery in this country, and the contributions of African-Americans in building our country.” Included in that process were numerous, “workshops, institutes, seminars, and other teacher training activities.”
Such courses contained much that The 1619 Project omits. The omissions include the strenuous efforts of non-African-Americans to end slavery, prevent and ameliorate the segregation that was a sad part of American History, and pass laws that ended segregation. As 1619 points out accurately, African-Americans took significant roles in those processes. The Project never admits that those efforts would have failed without many white people’s support and assistance.
The Need to Resist 1619 and its Ilk
These attempts to write out many African-Americans supporters serve the purpose of putting American history into the context of a Marxist class struggle narrative. Modern Marxists divide society into “oppressors” and “the oppressed” in a racist world.
The liberal narrative of the 1619 Project promotes a history that will not add to students’ understanding of the forces that shaped the United States. It distorts the truth by wrenching events from their contexts, emphasizing events that fit their narrative and erasing those that do not.
Far better would it be for student to learn history informed by the love of God and neighbor. Such a Catholic reading of history is the easiest, quickest, and surest path to understanding the just and harmonious relationships that can and should exist among humanity’s various races and ethnicities. Marxist egalitarianism is as removed from a Christian sense as hell is from Heaven, for it is fueled by hate, not love.
Rep. Ford is quoted as saying, “It costs us as a society in the long run forever when we don’t understand our brothers and sisters that we live, work and play with.” This statement is true. It is the reason that schools teach history. It is also an excellent reason not to distort that history.