Just two days before he left office, Donald Trump released a report generated from the 1776 Commission, a presidential advisory committee he created in September 2020 to combat, in his words, the “wicked web of lies” in some versions of American history. The commission was sparked by the right-wing outrage and panic over the New York Times’ 1619 project, a public history project designed to reframe the American narrative around the experiences and perspectives of Black Americans. Both the 1619 project and the 1776 commission are particularly concerned with education – the 1619 project produced lesson plans and resources for teachers to help educators diversity their curriculum, which threw critics into a tizzy. What would happen if children were taught that slavery was intrinsic to the foundation of the United States, or that the “founding fathers” were hypocritical slavers? The 1776 commission report is, happily, no longer in effect. The website was taken down at noon on Jan 20, 2021, as Joseph R Biden was sworn in as the 46th president. But the ideas and arguments in the commission report won’t disappear just because they no longer have the power of the presidency behind them. When the report dropped – on MLK Day – historians immediately criticized it, but they also began to worry about how they would teach the report and its flaws to their students. Well, that’s where we hope we can help. We don’t often do episodes like this, with all four of us focused on one document or even on one current event, but we consider it our job as educators, historians, and public historians to break down this commission report and discuss what exactly is wrong with it.
Note: Unlike our other episodes, this special, conversational episode does not have a transcript.
Sources and Further Reading
On Gun Registration, The NRA, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Gun Laws: Exploding the Gun Culture Wars (A Call to Historians)