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Oklahoma lawmaker proposes prohibition of 1619 Project curriculum

Jamie Glisson

An Oklahoma lawmaker is proposing a ban of the 1619 Project curriculum, which centers on Black Americans’ experience before and after slavery, in the classroom.

Roland Republican Rep. Jim Olsen’s House Bill 2988 would ban teaching the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project by The New York Times that has been turned into a curriculum to better educate students about the experiences of Black people in the United States.

The New York Times describes the project as a way “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”

Olsen's bill would ban it. It would also prohibit teaching the following:

  • Any teaching that America has more culpability, in general, than other nations for the institution of slavery.
  • That one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery.
  • That another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery.
  • That America, in general, had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations.
  • The primary and overarching purpose for the founding of America was the initiation and perpetuation of slavery.
Oklahoma House of Representatives
Rep. Jim Olsen (R-Roland)

K-12 schools that are found in violation of the proposed measure would face a penalty of up to 5% of their state allocation monthly. Colleges and universities in violation would lose up to 10% of their state allocation monthly.

Oklahoma’s legislative session will convene in February.

The measure is similar to ones introduced in Arkansas, Mississippi and Iowa, where it was unsuccessful. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton had previously introduced federal legislation to ban the curriculum, which failed in 2020.

Oklahoma is already facing an ongoing legal challenge for its so-called Critical Race Theory ban. ACLU attorneys argue the ban is prohibiting free speech in the state’s classrooms.

Earlier this year, Olsen compared the push to ban abortion to the work of abolishing slavery, saying, "If I had my choice, I guess I’d be a slave. At least the slave has his life."

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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