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Proposed legislation in Oklahoma would withhold up to 10 percent of state funding from public institutions that teach components of The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” including (as described by the bill) “Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery; That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery; That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery,” and that “America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations.”
The American Historical Association has already objected to the bill, which was introduced last month by State Representative Jim Olsen, a Republican. The AHA wrote in a letter to the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Senate that the bill would prevent students from learning such “basic, straightforward” historical facts as “the US Constitution prohibited Congress from abolishing US participation in the international slave trade for two decades; the Plessy v. Ferguson decision legalized racial segregation; the overwhelming majority of slave holders in the U.S. identified as white; and slavery was abolished three decades later in the United States than in most of the British Empire.”
This “irresponsible legislation is an example of blatant censorship and will have a chilling effect on teachers,” the AHA also said. “It is harmful to the youth of Oklahoma, leaving students ignorant of basic facts of American history and poorly prepared for the critical thinking and interpretive skills required for career and civic accomplishment.”
Other states have sought to ban the teaching of so-called divisive concepts as “1619” has gained popularity and a foothold in curricula, but the Oklahoma bill goes further than other legislation, specifically prohibiting the discussion of facts about slavery in U.S. history.