The 1619 Project Criticized as Insufficiently Celebratory of American Capitalism in Heritage Foundation Report

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: The report shows a remarkable lack of self-awareness regarding its own embeddedness in a political project to mobilize the past in the service of a particular vision of the future.

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The 1619 Project of the New York Times re-examines United States history with the experiences of Black Americans at the center. This generated pushback, including from elected officials who have attempted to ban its use in schools.

Recently, the Heritage Foundation published a report, Capitalism in the 1619 Project, seeking to disqualify the 1619 Project curricular materials as insufficiently celebratory of American capitalism. The report primarily asserts that the 1619 Project overstates slavery’s importance to U.S. economic history.

Seth Rockman of Brown University reviewed the report and found it to be more “ideological handwringing” than a credible historical analysis. Rockman is an associate professor in Brown’s history department. As Rockman explains, the report is less concerned with potential students’ content knowledge about slavery than with students’ receptivity to the libertarian policy preferences of the Heritage Foundation.

The report is disconnected from the educational research literature and current scholarly literature on both American slavery and history pedagogy. Instead, it is expressly motivated by an explicit fear that the 1619 Project’s discussion of slavery will compel students to hold redistributive and regulatory economic policies in higher esteem.

For these reasons, Professor Rockman concludes that the report commits the exact sin with which it besmirches the 1619 Project: substituting ideology and political motives for an accurate engagement with the past.

Find the review, by Seth Rockman, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/1619-project

Find Capitalism in the 1619 Project, written by Samuel Gregg and published by the Heritage Foundation, at:
https://www.heritage.org/progressivism/report/capitalism-the-1619-project

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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Michelle Renée Valladares

Seth Rockman
Brown University
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