Florida A & M University Law Review



In 2019, the New York Times Magazine released a special issue of its magazine, called the 1619 Project, entirely dedicated to reframing the founding of America and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans as central to America. The 1619 Project quickly became a national lightning rod—the book version of the project reached the top 100 on the bestseller lists of Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com more than a month before its release date, and several states responded by banning the teaching of The 1619 Project in schools. Bans on teaching The 1619 Project have erroneously referred to its contents under the catch-all phrase critical race theory. In fact, critical race theory is a decades-old legal and academic framework that denotes that systemic racism is embedded in laws, institutions, and policies that uphold racial inequalities. The backlash to The 1619 Project has led to the ban of its teaching in schools across the country, with legislation passed in various states based on model legislation circulated by conservative activist groups and think tanks. These laws not only ban so-called critical race theory but also include bans on “divisive concepts,” which range from such topics as “anti-racism” to “collective guilt” to “critical self-reflection.” This Article will begin with a discussion of the manufactured controversy over the 1619 Project. Next, this article will address the efforts to ban and promote the teaching of The 1619 Project and Black history in schools and conduct a comparative analysis of legislative proposals across various states to whitewash American history. Following that, this Article will briefly address constitutional issues with these laws and make an argument that a critical reading of American history is not only necessary –but essential– to the progress of this country.