President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference at the North Portico of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, September 7, 2020. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 7 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal education funding from schools if they use as curriculum a series of essays published to explain the history of slavery in the United States.
In response to an unverified claim that California schools were using The New York Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project in class, Trump on Sunday tweeted the U.S. Department of Education would investigate.
"Department of Education is looking at this," Trump wrote. If so, [California schools] will not be funded."
The 1619 Project is a series of articles marking the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving on the shores of Virginia, then an English colony.
Chicago Public Schools and other districts use the 1619 Project materials as part of a U.S. history curriculum.
The 1619 Project immediately drew criticism when it was published in 2019, but editors stood behind it, stating that the essays would "expand the reader's sense of the American past," Jack Silverstein, the Times editor in chief, wrote.
Trump's administration has attacked so-called racial justice movements across U.S. cities this summer after the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. Trump referred to the Black Lives Matter mural on the street in front of his Manhattan skyscraper as a "symbol of hate."
On Friday, Trump directed a ban on federal agencies training on "racial sensitivity," including sessions that addressed the concept of "White privilege" and "critical race theory."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in July cited the 1619 Project as an example of how the American way of life was "under attack." While unveiling a report by the Commission on Unalienable Rights, Pompeo said the series of essays was "a disturbed reading of history," that he rejected as "a slander of our great people."
Also in July, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, introduced proposed legislation to ban schools from using the project for a curriculum. Cotton's bill would have banned federal funds from being used in schools where the curriculum is taught.
On Sunday, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called the project "revisionist history" and "filled with serious errors."
But Bernice King, the daughter of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, called for parents to download the curriculum and teach it at home.
"We are on the brink of change, family. The highest office in the land is trying to stop teaching that will bring us closer to eradicating racism," King wrote.
"Millions have aligned themselves and are complicit," King added. "But it's been too long. Justice will win."