Biden Is Shutting Down Trump's Racist 1776 Commission

The "patriotic education" commission's first report will also be its last.
January 20, 2021, 3:30pm
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in New Castle, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The 1776 Commission established by President Trump last fall released a report Monday containing an unhinged right-wing version of American history that was widely derided by reputable historians. It will be their last. 

Just days after Trump’s “national commission to promote patriotic education” released a 45-page screed against—among other things—accurately teaching America’s history of slavery, President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team said Wednesday that he would sign an executive order that would dissolve the 1776 Commission. 

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The 1776 Commission “has sought to erase America’s history of racial injustice,” the Biden transition said in a release. 

Trump announced the formation of the commission in September to “encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and make plans to honor the 250th anniversary of our founding.” The report released by the commission on Monday, a federal holiday honoring civil rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., excused the complicity of the Founding Fathers in perpetuating slavery. 

“The most common charge leveled against the founders, and hence against our country itself, is that they were hypocrites who didn’t believe in their stated principles, and therefore the country they built rests on a lie,” the report claims. “This charge is untrue, and has done enormous damage, especially in recent years, with a devastating effect on our civic unity and social fabric.”

The report also lists “racism and identity politics” and “progressivism” as “challenges to America’s principles” alongside “fascism” and “slavery,” and describes Vice President and U.S. Sen. John C. Calhoun, one of the loudest pro-slavery voices in American government during the first half of the 19th century, as “the leading forerunner of identity politics.” Perhaps most outrageously, the report compares those who fought for civil rights in the 1960s to Calhoun himself. 

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“The Civil Rights Movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the founders,” the report says. “Among the distortions was the abandonment of nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in favor of ‘group rights’ not unlike those advanced by Calhoun and his followers.”

The report presents itself as an objective, ideology-free version of American history that should guide American history education. 

“States and school districts should reject any curriculum that promotes one-sided partisan opinions, activist propaganda, or factional ideologies that demean America’s heritage, dishonor our heroes, or deny our principles,” the report says.

“Any time teachers or administrators promote political agendas in the classroom, they abuse their platform and dishonor every family who trusts them with their children’s education and moral development.”

The report was a response to the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which the newspaper and the Pulitzer Center developed into a curriculum for educators. Historians overwhelmingly rejected the 1776 Report upon its release. 

Dr. Lionel Kimble, an associate professor of history at Chicago State University who serves as a vice president for the Association of the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH), called Biden shutting down the commission a “fantastic move.” 

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“The potential of the 1776 Report making it into the social studies curriculum of our educational systems would have a dramatic and detrimental impact on how our children learn and interpret American history,” Kimble told VICE News Wednesday.

“Hopefully now we can move forward with historians and other scholars telling a true story about who we are so we can move forward as a people. “ 

The dissolution of the commission comes as part of a wave of planned executive actions which the soon-to-be-President says will advance racial equity, a stark departure from the current administration’s rollbacks of affirmative action, broadsides against diversity training, and embrace of discriminatory housing policies

Biden, who clashed with future Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during the Democratic primary over his opposition to desegregation busing early in his Senate career, has vowed to prioritize racial justice in his administration. 

“Here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history,” Biden said of Trump during a presidential debate last October. “He pours fuel on every single racist fire.”