The White House's ahistorical 1776 Report denounced as 'racist garbage'

The White House's ahistorical 1776 Report denounced as 'racist garbage'
President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, participates Thursday, July 18, 2019, in the presentation of a WW II flag flown aboard a landing craft during the D-Day invasion at Normandy in 1944, presented to officials of the Smithsonian Institute during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The Trump administration was accused Monday of "reaffirming its commitment to racism above all else" with the release the so-called "1776 Report" that whitewashes slavery and asserts universities are pushing anti-Americanism by exploring the nation's roots of oppression, cruelty, exploitation, and greed.

"The most on-brand thing possible is Trump releasing a report trying to justify slavery on MLK Day," tweeted progressive journalist Jonathan Cohn.

The document is the product of President Donald Trump's 1776 Commission, established in the fall. The 18-member panel includes rightwing activists like Charlie Kirk but "no professional historians," as the New York Times noted.

The commission, according to CNN, represents "an apparent counter to The New York Times' 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning project aimed at teaching American students about slavery. Trump, speaking last fall, called the project 'toxic propaganda.'"

In a statement Monday, the White House described the new report as "a definitive chronicle of the American founding" 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."

Progressives and historians, meanwhile, denounced the report as not only a scholarly failure but a reflection of the racism espoused by the outgoing administration—from xenophobic travel bans to a refusal to denounce white supremacists to inciting violence by an extremist mob at the Capitol this month.

"The Trump administration is marking Martin Luther King Day by putting out a report that defends the Founding Fathers for owning slaves and attacks the Civil Rights Movement," said government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "This is an administration racist to the core."

For MLK Day, the Trump administration wants us to stop saying it was bad that people owned slaves pic.twitter.com/F2aHSQAWFP
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 18, 2021

"Our nation will never move forward if we allow our leaders to ignore and rewrite its history," tweeted the ACLU. "America has existed longer with slavery than without," the group added, "and reports like this make it clear that its legacy continues to manifest through systemic racism."

Among the historians sharply criticzing the report was David W. Blight, who called it "a puerile, politically reactionary document" that marks "the product of allowing an array of viciously right wing, willfully ignorant people to have way too much power." He also suggested it could "end up anthologized some day in a collection of fascist and authoritarian propaganda."

The Washington Post also featured criticism of the report from a number of historians including Kali Nicole Gross, an author and professor of African American Studies at Emory University and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Gross said the report was "the usual dodge on the long-lasting, harmful impacts of settler-colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, the oppression of women, the plight of queer people... as the true threat to democracy."

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