The revisionist and racist 1776 Commission report that then-President Trump’s administration released last Martin Luther King Day, two days before the end of his presidential term, appeared to be largely politically motivated. The public deserves to know details about how Trump apparently weaponized the Education Department to advance his own political agenda. CREW is suing the Department of Education for records on the report, after filing a Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) request that has received no records to date.

The timing of the Commission’s commencement—the day before the 2020 presidential election—and the publication of the report—two days before the end of Trump’s term—strongly suggest that the Commission was primarily meant to serve political purposes rather than reform history education, as it claims is its mission. In his speech announcing the 1776 Commission, Trump unleashed a raging criticism of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which reframes the narrative about the founding of the country around the contributions of Black Americans and consequences of slavery, essentially marking the establishment of the Commission as a politically-motivated retaliation against the 1619 Project.

Much of the report also appeared to be directly lifted from various conservative outlets, including the Heritage Foundation, and even a previous opinion piece from 1776 Commission member Thomas Lindsey, raising questions about the influence of special interest groups. Then there’s the hastiness around the actual manufacturing of the document, riddled with factual errors and the use of pervasively racist language, calling the SPLC-designated hate group Ku Klux Klan “a vigilante group,” and which the American Historical Association said lacked “any consultation with professional historians of the United States.” 

While Biden dissolved the Commission on his first day of office, legislation to reestablish the Commission was introduced in the House on January 28, 2021 and the commission continues to promote its historical and racist views through a non-governmental entity at Hillsdale College. The public deserves to know details about how Trump apparently manipulated the Department of Education to advance racist views and policies, the extent of special interest group influence on the Commission, and any other players complicit in allowing Trump’s weaponization of the government to benefit rich white men at the expense of everyone else.

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