AHA Condemns Report of Advisory 1776 CommissionHistorians in the News
tags: teaching history, Donald Trump, 1776 commission
The AHA has issued a statement condemning the report from “The President’s Advisory 1776 Commission.” “Written hastily in one month after two desultory and tendentious ‘hearings,’” the AHA writes, “without any consultation with professional historians of the United States, the report fails to engage a rich and vibrant body of scholarship that has evolved over the last seven decades.”
31 organizations have signed onto the statement.
Download the statement as a PDF.
Approved by AHA Council, January 20, 2021
The just-released “1776 Report” claims that common understanding of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution can unify all Americans in the love of country. The product of “The President’s Advisory 1776 Commission,” the report focuses on these founding documents in an apparent attempt to reject recent efforts to understand the multiple ways the institution of slavery shaped our nation’s history. The authors call for a form of government indoctrination of American students, and in the process elevate ignorance about the past to a civic virtue.
The report actually consists of two main themes. One is an homage to the Founding Fathers, a simplistic interpretation that relies on falsehoods, inaccuracies, omissions, and misleading statements. The other is a screed against a half-century of historical scholarship, presented largely as a series of caricatures, using single examples (most notably the “1619 Project”) to represent broader historiographical trends.
The sections on the founders envision godlike men who crafted documents that asserted “universal and eternal principles of justice and political legitimacy.” Ironically, the report erases whole swaths of the American population-enslaved people, Indigenous communities, and women-the way the founders excluded those groups from the body politic in a wide variety of founding documents as well as actual public practice. In listing threats to the ideals of the nation, the report ignores the Confederate States of America, whose leaders, many clearly guilty of treason, initiated a civil war that claimed more than 700,000 lives-more American lives than all other conflicts in the history of the country combined. Instead, the authors focus on early 20th-century Progressive reformers and bizarrely suggest they were similar to Mussolini and other World War II European fascists. Of particular note is the implied condemnation of Progressive Era legislation-workplace health and safety legislation, regulation of the production of food and drugs, the elimination of child labor, and other social goods we take for granted today.
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