Democratic Rep: U.S. must ‘take responsibility’ for slavery's origin in British colonies 1619-1776

Congresswoman says schools should teach slavery’s origin from 1619 through 1776 as part of U.S. history, despite British control of 13 colonies

Updated: July 24, 2020 - 6:28pm

Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky said Friday that the United States must "take responsibility" for the origins of slavery in British colonies from 1619 through 1776, the year U.S. was founded.

The 13 British colonies were under Great Britain’s control until 1776 when the U.S. declared its independence.

The congresswoman also said that public schools should teach slavery’s origin from 1619 through 1776, included in New York Times Magazine’s "1619 Project," as part of U.S. history.

Sen. Tom Cotton recently introduced a bill that would block federal funds from going to schools that teach the "1619 Project" in their curriculum. The project has been criticized by some historians.

Last year, New York Times Magazine's Editor-in-Chief Jake Silverstein wrote in a piece titled, “Why We Published the 1619 Project,” that the arrival of African slaves in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 “inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s very origin.”

Schakowsky was asked whether the contents of the "1619 Project" should be taught as part of U.S. history when the country was not founded until 1776.

“That was one of the most compelling articles I ever read, that talked about how deep and dark our history of slavery really is, that even as our country was founded, slavery was entrenched in the culture of our country, and so I think teaching that is – it's just one of the most compelling articles and informative articles to set the stage of how we are where we are today. So I am all for that incredible article," she said during a conference call in response to a question from Just the News.

Schakowsky is among the 139 co-sponsors of the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act that would establish a panel to "examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies." 

Schakowsky, a member of the House Budget Committee, was asked whether she thinks Great Britain has been left out of the reparations and slavery debate, despite the colonies being under British control from 1619 to 1776.

“I'm not the editor of that article," she responded. "I certainly think all the things that are there in it are important. And making sure that we complete the history is important too. So it certainly would not be a reason not to teach that wonderful piece. But, you know, if there are things that need to be added about, because, certainly you're right, the United States of America wasn't even, before our founding, was not the only place that endorsed and supported slavery.” 

She also said: “There’s all those countries that were actually kidnapping and exporting and so, you know, I think all of that ought to be included. But we need to take responsibility. This is on us, and so I appreciate the teaching of that article."

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