Nikole Hannah-Jones says her 1619 Freedom School in Iowa teaches Black history, not CRT

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Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead author of The New York Times’ 1619 Project, is launching a free after-school program in Iowa that combines reading skills with Black history, according to reports. 

The privately funded program will serve grade-school students in the Waterloo school district and initially have room for 30 children with room to grow, the Des Moines Register reported.  

While Hannah-Jones, a native of Waterloo, specifically said the curriculum does not involve critical race theory, the program’s website describes it as “liberating instruction centered on Black American history.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, signed a bill into law in June targeting what’s described as the “discriminatory indoctrination” in critical race theory – although the law doesn’t specifically ban CRT. 

“We’re not teaching critical race theory,” Hannah-Jones said, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “Parents will opt into the program if they believe in what we’re doing. And if they don’t, they won’t. I don’t understand how one can criticize an effort to help children to become more literate and excel academically.”

“We’re not teaching critical race theory. Parents will opt into the program if they believe in what we’re doing. And if they don’t, they won’t.”

Nikole Hannah-Jones is seen in New York City, May 21, 2016. (Associated Press)

Reynolds, through a spokesperson, told the newspaper, “I am proud to have worked with the Legislature to promote learning, not discriminatory indoctrination.”

 “I am proud to have worked with the Legislature to promote learning, not discriminatory indoctrination.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks in Johnston, Iowa, Sept. 29, 2020. (Associated Press)

Conservatives have taken issue with the 1619 Project as well as its goal to “reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”

Hannah-Jones’ school is named for the “freedom schools” that popped up during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s and taught Black children about Black history and how to fight for change, the Register reported. The school’s colors — black, red and green — also reflect those of the Black nationalist flag so the students can “evoke a sense of pride in their culture.”

“We’re intentional with everything that we’re doing with this … to teach children to fight for their own liberation and to show them that they have a deep, storied past that they can be proud of,” Hannah-Jones said, the Register reported. “The literature on this is very clear that when Black students are exposed to Black history, they excel — they do better, academically.”

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