1776 Unites

Members of The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites Initiative have written an open letter to the National School Boards Association and local School Boards.

Here are some excerpts:

The prevailing narrative of racial grievance has been corrupting the instruction of American history and the humanities for many decades, but has accelerated dangerously over the past year. The most damaging effects of such instruction fall on lower income minority children, who are implicitly told that they are helpless victims with no power or agency to shape their own futures.

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We represent a nonpartisan and intellectually diverse black-led alliance of writers, educators, thinkers, and activists focused on solutions to our country’s greatest challenges in education, culture, race relations, and upward mobility.

The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites initiative stands in unqualified opposition to any curricula that depict America as irredeemably racist; teach that the legacies of slavery, racial segregation, and other appalling crimes are insurmountable; or fail to provide examples from history of black achievement against the odds. We ask that your schools instead adopt curricula that, rather than completely reject our founding values, instead embrace the ideas of family, faith, and entrepreneurship that have enabled all Americans – including black Americans – throughout history to move from persecution to prosperity, and will continue to do so for generations to come.

We propose including in your schools’ offerings the Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites curricula, which map to Social Studies, English and Social/Emotional Learning standards. 1776 Unites offers authentic, motivating stories from American history that show what is best in our national character and what our freedom makes possible even in the most difficult circumstances.

The curricula maintain a special focus on stories that celebrate black excellence, reject victimhood culture, and showcase the millions of African Americans who have prospered by embracing their country’s founding ideals. The lessons have been downloaded more than 17,000 times across all 50 states.

The Woodson Center’s 1776 Unites curriculum is grounded in essential American values, upholding:

  • Continuity, not rupture. 1776 Unites confronts the realities of slavery and racism in American history while also recognizing them as betrayals of our founding’s highest principles. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson are celebrated in our history despite, not because of, their personal and political failings. The struggle of Americans to rise and realize our own values is part of our story—and always has been.
  • Dignity, not grievance. While dealing frankly with the grim realities of racial segregation, 1776 Unites also shows how black Americans have seized their own destiny and flourished despite harsh restrictions, as demonstrated by the development of nearly 5,000 rural schoolhouses overseen by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald. These schools became sources of local pride and helped close the white-black learning gap.
  • Resilience, not fragility. Knowing the achievements of the past helps students better understand their responsibilities as American citizens. A lesson on the “Woodson Principles,” which celebrate individual responsibility and strength in the face of adversity, asks students to draw vital support from family, faith, community, and participation in civic life.

Embedded within the achievements of American history are the tools of self-betterment and self-renewal that our country has always deployed on the journey to become a more perfect union. Our children deserve an authentic vision of that story, one that will help them to achieve their own human flourishing.

[…]We invite all those who are committed to quality education and fostering a genuine interest among our young people in how inspiring lessons from our past can inform our path forward to contact us at 1776 Unites ([email protected]), and to view and download our free lessons here.

The full letter can be read here.