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Republican Lawmakers Advance Bill To Ban 1619 Project From Iowa Schools

Iowa Capitol with snow
Michael Leland
/
IPR file
Schools that teach lessons based on the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which details the legacy of slavery in the U.S., would lose some state funding under a bill advanced Tuesday by Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives.

Schools that teach lessons based on the New York Times’ 1619 Project would lose some state funding under a bill advanced Tuesday by Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives.

The award-winning project led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones—who grew up in Waterloo—details the legacy of slavery in the United States. Hannah-Jones won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and the Pulitzer Center made educational resources based on the 1619 Project available for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, sponsored the bill that would ban the use of this curriculum in public schools and colleges. He said he believes the 1619 project is inaccurate “leftist political propaganda” and “revisionist history.”

“Of course the main argument in the project is that America is inherently racist, founded on slavery, racism and bigotry,” Wheeler said. “However that’s simply not true. America is the only majority-white country in the world to elect a Black president, and we’ve done it twice.”

Racism and racial inequality have always been present in American society, and they still are today.

Hannah-Jones told the Des Moines Register the bill is an embarrassment for the state's public education system.

And while some historians have criticized the project, the New York Times has stood behind it.

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, opposed the bill. He said the 1619 Project curriculum is an opportunity for students to explore U.S. history through a different lens, and banning it would be legislative overreach.

“How many times in school were any of us taught that 1619 is when the first slaves were brought to this country? Very few people were taught that,” Smith said. “I didn’t know that. Isn’t that unfortunate? Because to me…that is my origin story in this country.”

In a previous subcommittee about protections for people based on their political ideology, Wheeler claimed that conservative voices are being censored. At the same time, he is proposing a ban on a specific work of journalism from public schools.

Republican lawmakers in multiple states have proposed similar legislation, according to reporting from The 19th.

Iowa’s public education-related interest groups have registered in opposition to the bill.

“We’re in opposition to this bill because we don’t believe we should go down the path of having state legislatures set laws for what we can and cannot teach, and what curriculum we can and cannot use,” said Emily Piper, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards. “We think that’s a very dangerous precedent.”

Piper added local school boards are responsible for making those decisions.

Some members of the public at the subcommittee spoke in support of the bill and claimed the 1619 Project is historically inaccurate.

Wheeler and Rep. Henry Stone, R-Forest City, voted to advance the bill the full House Education Committee. Smith voted against the bill.