There has been an enormous backlash to the 1619 Project, causing it to be banned from public school curriculums in Florida and Texas.
But the purveyors of the 1619 Project’s false history, namely the nonprofit Pulitzer Center, which first devised the curriculum, are not dissuaded. Funded by the same people who brought “Zuckerbucks” and never-Trump pacs, the Pulitzer Center is pushing the 1619 Project into libraries, after-school programs, law schools, and — as revealed this past weekend — into prisons.
A two-day conference hosted by the Pulitzer Center this past weekend featured a number of teachers and professors who are putting up a “resistance” to efforts in red states. Two individuals featured were Andy Eisen and Pamela Cappas-Toro, who were each described in the program as a “professor & adult learning instructor.” It was revealed at the conference that the adults they instruct are incarcerated men at the Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, Florida, which is about 15 miles from the DeLand campus of Stetson University, where they both teach. Eisen and Cappas-Toro founded and now direct the program, the Community Education Project, which is billed as “a non-profit multidisciplinary college in prison program at Stetson University committed to offering quality liberal arts education.” It began in 2015.
As someone who taught college English for 20 years, often at places that admitted students with troubled pasts and lagging academic skills, I know that literature can awaken the moral impulse. But there will be no moments of contemplating great poetry through the Community Education Project. Instead of fulfilling its promise to offer “incarcerated individuals meaningful opportunities for personal growth and intellectual engagement” through the liberal arts, it will instill racial resentment and skepticism about our justice system.
As became apparent by their presentation, teaching the liberal arts is the farthest thing from Eisen and Cappas-Toro’s goals. In their talk, they focused on the 1619 Project essay on sugar, linking, in the common critical theory manner, the connection between slavery, the “sugar industry,” the “carceral state,” and the negative impact of sugar on prisoners. The refrain is that, like other unhealthy products, such as liquor, sugar is imposed by capitalists on vulnerable minorities. According to the essay, a line connects modern-day problems of diabetes and obesity to slavery.
Their presentation offered a view into the class Public History and the 1619 Project, which the Pulitzer Center said was created by professors from the Community Education Project. The center says the Community Education Project is “part of the 2021 cohort of the The 1619 Project Education Network.”
The course involves writing in the form of “short essay responses, creative writing, or public history pieces,” drawing from the project’s various essays, namely, Reginald Dwayne Betts’ “The Slavery Act 1793,” Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s “Sugar,” Nikole Hannah-Jones’ “The Idea of America,” and Bryan Stevenson’s “Mass Incarceration.”
Day two of the lesson plan, titled “Sugar and Mass Incarceration in a Local Context,” asks students to “Explore the historical connections between slavery, sugar, and mass incarceration.”
The students, who are understood to be incarcerated, are asked to “track their sugar intake as best as possible over the course of a week, to collect wrappers from items available for purchase in the canteen, and to make note of the sugar content in the items available on the prison’s commissary list.” Students are asked what they learned “from taking stock of the sugar in the diets of incarcerated persons.” Their assignment is a 2-page reflection paper answering the question: “Why is sugar so prevalent in the prison and in what ways is this connected to histories of slavery?”
Such questions aim not to impart knowledge but to instill anger and resentment, as does the 1619 Project. From the preface by Nikole Hannah-Jones, where she charges that this nation’s “myths have not served us well” because we “incarcerate our citizens at the highest rates” and that we “suffer the greatest income inequality,” to the charges by contributor Bryan Stevenson about “racial disparities in sentencing … in almost every crime category” because of the “racialized instincts for punishment our history has created” to the false claim by Leslie Alexander and Michelle Alexander that “Black people are significantly more likely to be killed by police than white people,” the imprisoned will find little inspiration. There is nothing to praise in this country and therefore little to be optimistic about for life on the outside. The 1619 Project only reinforces the idea prominent among criminals: that the cards are stacked against them.
Such educational initiatives are incredibly profitable — for the publishers of the 1619 Project: the New York Times and Penguin Random House. The Times is a major holder of the copyright of the project’s hardcover books. These companies are profiting from an alliance with non-profits funded by political operatives on the left.
Funding the non-profit Community Education program are the Laughing Gull Foundation, which focuses on giving grants to Higher Education in Prison Programs and LGBTQ+ Equality Programs. Also contributing is the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, launched with the help of Cappas-Toro herself; she served as a steering committee member in 2016. It is also funded by Laughing Gull and other leftist foundations, such as the Lumina, Mellon, and NoVo (controlled by Warren Buffet’s son). Other funding for the Community Education Project comes from the campus-based Nina B. Hollis Institute for Educational Reform, which receives funding for some programs from the state of Florida and the federal government — in other words, tax dollars.
Citizens should know about these behind-the-scenes efforts buried by an alliance of radical educators and non-profits. Citizens will have to live among violent statue-toppling graduates of high schools, colleges, and prison programs.