Angered by ‘The 1619 Project,’ state leaders respond with the ‘Texas 1836 Project’

Texas leaders were not pleased with The New York Times’ highly controversial and Pulitzer Prize-winning “The 1619 Project,” so they countered with the “Texas 1836 Project,” their own method of teaching the state’s history and exceptionalism.

The Houston Chronicle reported that the committee in charge of the Texas 1836 Project has approved a 15-page pamphlet to be given to applicants for a Texas driver’s license. 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott — who appointed the committee, alongside fellow top Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan — praised the project’s goal of “patriotic education” and emphasized that “we must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place,” according to The Chronicle.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott attends a June 2021 security briefing at the Weslaco Department of Public Safety DPS Headquarters in Weslaco, Texas. Abbott has joined other top Republicans in his state to create a draft pamphlet for the Texas 1836 Project, which is in response to the New York Times’ “1619 Project.” (Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

Critics expected that the brochure would leave out historical disputes and racial instability, as well as social and economic inequalities, and while it does acknowledge Texas’ complex history with slavery, details may not have been as specific as some would’ve preferred.

The draft, which the committee unanimously approved, discusses issues such as the establishment of slavery by the new Texas republic despite interfering with U.S. annexation, Jim Crow laws and voting rights restrictions that discriminated against Black people, as well as other injustices suffered by Indigenous people, native Tejanos, and other people of color.

“This tale is far from perfect, like most human endeavors,” the pamphlet states, according to The Chronicle. “Even so, it is full of optimism, energy, grit and gumption that sets a bold example for the rest of the nation and the world.”

It includes a quote from the early 1800s that reads: “Texas is heaven for men and dogs but hell for women and oxen,” additionally noting that “This was doubly true for the enslaved.”

Despite his criticisms of an early draft of the pamphlet, Jason Stanford, co-author of “Forget the Alamo,” a book that claimed slavery was the primary cause of the Texas Revolution, said in a blog post in July that it was shockingly accurate. He withheld judgment until the final draft had gone through editing by the state education department and the inspection of legislators.

“When the Legislature passed a law requiring a patriotic teaching of history, I’m pretty sure they didn’t have in mind an honest survey of the role of slavery in the creation of Texas as a country and in the evolution of Texas as a state,” wrote Stanford, The Chronicle reported.

Leah LaGrone and Michael Phillips, two university researchers, were far less tolerant, and in an editorial article published in Texas Monthly late mast month, they criticized the pamphlet for omitting the existence and difficulties of women, Tejanos and “gay, bisexual and trans Texans.”

“The pamphlet not only erases atrocities, it also scrubs the history of dissenting political movements such as the left-wing Populists of the late nineteenth century,” LaGrone and Phillips wrote, according to The Chronicle.

Sherry Sylvester, a committee member and former senior advisor to Patrick, defended the panel against criticism from non-historians who write and interpret history from a left-wing point of view.

“So they project to us that we will write stories from a right-wing perspective or a conservative perspective. We have not done that,” said Sylvester, per The Chronicle. “We’ve been committed to not doing that. If we don’t take that bait and just go with the richness of what we have, I think we’ll be fine.”

This fall, the group will create an extended 30- to 50-page account of the state’s history for the education department as part of its advisory duties. If funding is provided by the Legislature, the “Welcome to Texas” leaflet will be provided to those acquiring their first driver’s license in the state.

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