Illinois Lawmaker Calls on State to Abolish History Classes, Says They Cause Racism

August 4, 2020 Updated: September 3, 2020

A Democratic state representative from Chicago, Illinois, said history should stop being taught in the state’s public schools, alleging that current history curriculum “leads to white privilege and a racist society.”

“When it comes to teaching history in Illinois, we need to end the mis-education of Illinoisans,” state Rep. LaShawn Ford said during a Sunday conference, where he was joined by a group of Chicago’s officials and educators, who called for a statewide overhaul of history classes in public schools.

Ford, who didn’t provide specific examples from the curriculum that is being used, argued that Illinois’ history teachings do not sufficiently focus on contributions by women and minorities. He demanded the Illinois Board of Education and school districts to immediately remove history curriculum and books that “unfairly communicate” history until a “suitable alternative” is developed.

Ford is currently sponsoring state House Bill 4954, which would implement a set of new teaching practices in public schools, including the observation of “Victims of Violence Wholly Day” on April 4, in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. His proposal to abolish Illinois’ current history classes will also be introduced as a House bill this week.

Chicago is known as one of the major U.S. cities that teach New York Times’ “1619 Project” in their public schools. The highly controversial race-centered project has been taught in Chicago Public Schools as “America’s real history” since last fall, according to Chicago Sun-Times.

The 1619 Project is championed by New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, who considers the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the year of 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia, as the true beginning of the history of the United States. Aiming to “reframe American history,” the project consists of a set of essays the argue, among many other controversial claims, that the American Revolution was primarily fought to preserve slavery.

“The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who introduced a bill last month that would prohibit federal funds from going toward the teaching of the project, which he called a “racially divisive, revisionist account of history.”

Developed by Pulitzer Center for teachers and students of all grade levels, the 1619 Project-based curriculum has made its way into public school districts across the nation, notably in Chicago, Buffalo, Newark, and Washington.