The Oregon Department of Education paid $50,000 for two webinars with The New York Times’ 1619 Project author Nikole Hannah-Jones.
The advocacy group Oregonians for Liberty in Education (OLE) reported that the Oregon Education Department used resources from the “Every Day Matters” program — a program designed to help routine truants — to pay for Hannah-Jones’ lectures.
On May 7, Hannah-Jones spoke on a panel to Oregon educators about “1619: Centering Black History and Black Futures in Oregon.” On May 13, Hannah-Jones spoke to students on “the importance of black history, as well as how the history has helped to build our society today.” Later she spoke with teachers on “how the historical events detailed in the 1619 Project can and should inform how we create the conditions of belonging for Black students, families, and educators in Oregon.”
During the panel, Hannah-Jones cast America’s past as a “system of oppression” and said that nearly all of America is a “legacy of slavery.” A separate panelist said that America is still rooted in racism.
The Daily Wire reported:
The chair of Portland State University’s Black Studies Department, Professor Ethan Johnson, claimed that slavery still exists in the United States.
“One of the things that is really important, I think is, to not frame slavery as our legacy but as it’s still here,” said Johnson. “Its legacy suggests that it’s over and there’s some remnants of it moving forward. And I would suggest that, no, slavery is right here. The idea of what a slave is, is still here. And we’re living that.”
Oregon’s education director introduced Hannah-Jones by claiming that “the experience of black students and families can and must be centered in our state, including the fullness of black history and black futures.” Five years ago, the education department crafted an African American/Black Student Success Plan, which has boosted graduation rates, test scores, and lowered disciplinary incidents among black students.
“Perhaps prioritizing activism over achievement isn’t the answer,” OLE said. “Spending seven months and $50,000 on these two webinars seems like a clear-cut case of counterproductive priorities. And the claim that the webinars would ‘create conditions of belonging’ is patently absurd.
Hannah-Jones received a Pulitzer Prize for her “1619 Project” series, though it has come under fire from historians for alleged inaccuracies. Among the critics is James McPherson, professor emeritus of history at Princeton University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. McPherson called the project “unbalanced” and “one-sided.”
“I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history,” the historian said.
Hannah-Jones claims that the 1619 Project is an ongoing effort as two new books, eight new essays, documentaries, and films are forthcoming. Hannah-Jones teamed up with Oprah Winfrey alongside Lionsgate to create several feature films and documentaries.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.