The 1776 Report is rife with 'errors, distortions, and outright lies' say historians
Wikiimages by Pixabay, Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich/Twitter

The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.


The 1776 Report from the commission was released yesterday, and historians have near-universally panned it as an ahistorical piece of political propaganda—and a poorly constructed one at that. (You can read the report here.)

Even just a cursory glance at the table of contents is a clue to the what-the-what foolishness we're going to find within it.

The introduction to the report states that the 1776 Commission is "comprised of some of America's most distinguished scholars and historians" and calls the report "a definitive chronicle of the American founding, a powerful description of the effect the principles of the Declaration of Independence have had on this Nation's history, and a dispositive rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around the idea that the United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one."

The first problem is that these "distinguished scholars and historians" don't include a single actual American historian among them. There are a couple of people whose scholarship fields—namely political science and classicism—are somewhat tangentially related to the topic, but if you're really trying to write a "definitive chronicle of the American founding," it would probably be good to include some actual experts in American history.

Of course, there's a good reason that they didn't include American historians—because finding an actual American historian to sign onto such a distorted representation of history is darn near impossible. It might also be because actual historians generally do their research work through universities, which the report criticizes as "hotbeds of anti-Americanism, libel, and censorship that combine to generate in students and in the broader culture at the very least disdain and at worst outright hatred for this country."

David W. Blight, Professor of History, of African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale, calls the report "beliefs devoid of history," a "puerile, politically reactionary document," and "the final desperate act of MAGA functionaries" which "needs a janitor's broom."



He also wrote that the report "may end up anthologized someday in a collection of fascist and authoritarian propaganda," a sentiment shared by Stanford PhD student Austin Clements, whose studies focus on fascism and the Far Right.

Heather Cox Richardson, an American historian from Boston College who has grown a huge following for her daily documentation of American history in real-time, wrote of the report: "Made up of astonishingly bad history, this document will not stand as anything other than an artifact of Trump's hatred of today's progressives and his desperate attempt to wrench American history into the mythology he and his supporters promote so fervently."

Even Steven Wilentz, a Yale historian who has criticized the 1619 Project, told the Washington Post that the 1776 Project is nothing more than political commentary. "It reduces history to hero worship," he wrote in an email. "It's the flip side of those polemics, presented as history, that charge the nation was founded as a slavocracy, and that slavery and white supremacy are the essential themes of American history. It's basically a political document, not history."

Professor Jacqueline Antonovich asked historians on Twitter to share their "favorite" part of the report and kicked off the parade by pointing out that there are no citations—no footnote, endnotes, or bibliography—to be found. A high school history paper would be flunked for such an omission.

Columbia history professor, Dr. Karl Jacoby, pointed out that the document lavishes praise on the Declaration of Independence (indeed, it's a primary focus of the report) but totally ignores the fact that it calls Indigenous people "merciless Indian savages." As a matter of fact, Indigenous people basically don't exist in this telling of America's founding.

Eric Rauchway, history professor at the University of California at Davis, told the Washington Post, "It's very hard to find anything in here that stands as a historical claim, or as the work of a historian. Almost everything in it is wrong, just as a matter of fact. I may sound a little incoherent when trying to speak of this, because the report itself is not coherent. It's like historical whack-a-mole."

One of the criticisms of progressivism in the report is what it refers to as a post-Civil Rights Movement focus on "group rights." However, Rauchway recalls the formation of the Senate as an example of group rights that long predates modern sensibilities. "Group rights is not anathema to American principles," he told the Post. "Why do Wyomingers have 80 times the representation that Californians have if not for group rights?"

The way both slavery and the post-Civil Rights Movement era are treated is mind-bogglingly distorted, as Ibram X. Kendi points out.

He also points out the inherent problem with the "Black people have been given preferential treatment for decades" argument, which logically leads to the racist idea that since disparities still exist, Black people must just be inferior.

One of the worst aspects of the report is that it was released on MLK Day,

The problem is that this report will undoubtedly be used by some as the foundation for American education, ignoring the irony that it's a blatantly biased propaganda document that decries teaching "one-sided," "activist propaganda."

Nikole Hanna-Jones has said that she wanted to write the 1619 Project and its accompanying curriculum to get kids to ask questions. Historian Kevin Levin points out that the 1776 Report appears to have the opposite focus, viewing "students as sponges who are expected to absorb a narrative of the American past without question. It views history as set in stone rather than something that needs to be analyzed and interpreted by students."

And as writer Michael Harriot pointed out, the report is merely a return to the whitewashed history students were taught for generations, putting the founding fathers up on a pedestal from which they could do no real wrong and glossing over the problematic elements of our history that still have lingering effects today.

A nuanced approach to American history is vital, as is acknowledging that two things can be true at the same time. The democratic principles laid out in the founding documents of our nation are exceptional and deserving of praise and the U.S. has yet to truly live up to the ideals they espouse. It is in no way unAmerican or anti-American to be honest and forthright about America's past and current sins and to strive to form a more perfect union by working toward true liberty and justice for all. Equating a desire to better understand the vast, ongoing impact of historical injustices in our country with "hatred for America" is simplistic and untrue. It's not only possible to love America and want her to be better, it's actually a sign of loving America to examine her past fully, to assess her present truthfully, and to imagine her future hopefully.

To pretend that the U.S. is and has always been perfect is an insult to the millions who have suffered at her hands, and this report is an insult to the millions who understand that. Whitewashing history in the name of "patriotic education" is not virtuous. It never has been and it certainly never will be.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

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Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Last May, when the Northern California city of Santa Rosa announced they were temporarily putting up 70 socially distanced tents for people experiencing homelessness in the parking lot of the Finley Community Center—a popular park and aquatic complex where families regularly gather for recreation—residents of the upscale neighborhood revolted.

According to the Los Angeles Times, some of the commentary from the hundreds of people who complained about the proposed 'tent city' included:

"Will there be a list of everybody who decided to do this to us and our park, in case we want to vote them out?"

"This is a family neighborhood."

"How can we feel safe using our park?"

Residents' concerns included the potential for crime, drug use, trash, and disease—all things that the city would directly address in the project. But notable in the exchange between leaders and residents is that the officials weren't asking residents for permission to create the camp; they were simply informing them they were doing it.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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