President Donald Trump plans to denounce school curricula that emphasize the impact of slavery and racism on American history during a roundtable discussion at the National Archives on Thursday.
“The president will deliver remarks on his administration’s efforts to promote a more balanced, accurate, and patriotic curricula in America’s schools,” the White House said in a statement.
That includes criticizing what the White House calls “the liberal indoctrination of America’s youth.” Trump is expected to explicitly fault the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” The Pulitzer-Prize winning public school curriculum developed by the newspaper orients American history from the date that the first slave ship arrived in what later became the U.S.
Trump has sought to rally his core supporters, who are disproportionately White, ahead of the November election. He trails Democrat Joe Biden in polls, and he has tried to make his demands for “law and order” amid sometimes violent national protests over racism and police brutality a central issue in the campaign.
Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that the Department of Education would cut off federal funding to California schools if they adopted the 1619 curriculum. Trump has repeatedly said that what he considers political correctness shouldn’t obscure acknowledgment of American exceptionalism.
The administration issued a memo Sept. 4 banning federal agencies from conducting racial sensitivity training that considers “critical race theory, white privilege, or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.”
Critical race theory is an academic movement that gained a foothold in the 1980s, and suggests that unequal outcomes for racial groups are the result of racist power structures. U.S. racial divisions and how they are addressed by politicians and the government have come under new scrutiny since the May killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by Minneapolis police. His death prompted months of demonstrations around the country.
Trump and other top administration officials have said they don’t believe that systemic racism exists, and have argued that curricula like the 1619 Project provide an unduly dark vision of America’s founding.
“They want you to believe that America’s institutions continue to reflect the country’s acceptance of slavery at our founding,” Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said during a July speech in Washington.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, who developed the 1619 project, said earlier this week that she rejected criticism that her effort was divisive. The president’s criticism of the project was heightening awareness that slavery began so early in the American colonies, she said.
“That has been treated as an obscure date that most Americans never learn,” Hannah-Jones said at the Texas Tribune Festival. “Ultimately, I wanted us to force an acknowledgment of the presence of slavery as early as 1619.”
Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris accused the president of “spending full time in a different reality,” in an interview with CNN earlier this month.
“I don’t think that most reasonable people who are paying attention to the facts would dispute that there are racial disparities and a system that has engaged in racism in terms of how the laws have been enforced,” Harris said. “It does us no good to deny that.”