OBP Statement on Critical Examination of Racial Inequalities in Historical Education

Monday, September 21, 2020
Contact: zachary@oregonblackpioneers.org

On September 17, President Trump announced that he would sign an executive order creating a plan for “patriotic education” through school curriculum created by a new “1776 Commission”. Access to the curriculum will be made available via grants administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The reference to 1776 was a targeted response to New York Time’s Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project, created by Black historian and author Nicole Hannah Jones, which examines the historical development of the United States through the lens of slavery and its continued impacts on our social, economic, and political landscape. This act comes on the heels of a federal directorate to halt any internal training programs related to diversity, racial equity, or “critical race theory”.

With these executive actions, the President has made it clear that his administration considers critical examination of the country’s historical and contemporary racial inequalities is unpatriotic or detrimental to American students. Oregon Black Pioneers believes the opposite is true. Ignoring the realities of our historical missteps and substituting them in our schools with unquestioned patriotism is a dangerous step towards fascism.

Our organization was founded with the goal of illuminating the positive and negative experiences of African Americans in Oregon as a means of redressing the systematic erasure of Black history in popular narratives of Oregon’s past. The legacy of slavery has greatly shaped Oregon –from settler colonialism, to racial exclusion, to segregation and red lining to Black Lives Matter protests. These connections are rooted in historical fact and corroborated by our state’s academic community. To deny educators in Oregon the opportunity to present these facts, or to prevent Oregon students the opportunity to learn the true and full account of our nation’s history, is to commit the very wrongs which the President claims to oppose. Any initiative meant to tell a history of the United States which minimizes the hardships of racism, slavery, and discrimination is propaganda and has no redeeming qualities as an educational resource.

Ahead of our country’s 250th anniversary, it is more important than ever to reflect on the stated principles upon which the nation is founded. The United States has not lived up to the ideals of freedom and equality for all Americans. The way that we can achieve liberty and justice for all is to acknowledge the ways BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled, non-Christians and others have been denied civil rights and work together to correct it. Our history matters. Oregon Black Pioneers looks forward to working with its community and partners to continue to reveal the uncomfortable truths of our past wrongs so that we may never repeat them.


Oregon Black Pioneers was founded in 1993. Its mission is to research, recognize, and commemorate the culture and heritage of African Americans in the State of Oregon. Its vision is to be the premier resource for information about Oregon’s African American culture and heritage. For more information please contact zachary@oregonblackpioneers.org.