It is with sorrow but not surprise that I read in Wednesday’s Daily Reflector that a Pitt County school board member introduced a resolution opposing the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project is neither insane nor Marxist, rather it attempts to place the impact of racism and slavery in a historical perspective. Without such an examination much of American history and culture makes little sense.
Racism and slavery were at the heart of the development of the Southern plantation system and the New England triangle trade routes that brought slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and rum to America and Britain. The development of the Electoral College as well as the creation of the Second Amendment to the Constitution also are the result of slavery, as is the Three-Fifths Compromise that permitted slaveholding states to count a slave as three-fifths of a person for determining a state’s population.
American literature and culture also cannot be understood without the context of racism and slavery. The works of such canonical writers as Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville and Mark Twain make little sense without understanding the impact of slavery. No study of American popular culture makes sense without an examination of the development and popularity of the minstrel show and the enormous political and cultural impact of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film, “The Birth of A Nation,” which extolled the “virtues” of the Ku Klux Klan and celebrated the imposition of Jim Crow laws throughout the country.
Educators and school board members should and must do better. Instead of teaching history as a patriotic exercise or fantastic alternate history, schools should allow the events that actually occurred to speak for themselves. Racism has been part of American history from its beginnings, and it appears it remains so.