News Story

1619 Project creator paid $50K for Oakland University teacher seminar

Total cost of teacher confab: $97K

Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the 1619 Project, will be paid $50,000 by Oakland University as a guest speaker at a one-day teaching seminar aimed at middle and high school teachers, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The New York Times writer’s Aug. 9 presentation, at a seminar called “Teaching Race in America,” will explain how to use the 1619 Project in the classroom. The highly publicized project “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative,” according to the Times

Historians across the political spectrum have criticized the 1619 Project’s accuracy and historical assumptions, while policy experts question whether it’s appropriate for the classroom.

"The 1619 Project is opinion journalism. Its presentation of materials is biased and, in many instances, factually deficient,” Philip Magness, director of research and education for the American Institution for Academic Research, told Michigan Capitol Confidential. “Owing to the proliferation of biases and uncorrected errors, the 1619 project is ill-suited for classroom adoption.”

Magness has published a critique of the project.

Related reading: Michigan English teachers use 1619 Project in professional development seminar

Oakland University will pay $97,151 for the seminar featuring Hannah-Jones. This includes $4,000 in travel expenses for Hannah-Jones and a companion. A VIP reception will add $6,000 to the tab. Oakland University received $60.7 million from state taxpayers in the 2022-23 Michigan budget.

Real Clear Investigations reports that 12 universities paid Hannah-Jones a total of $521,000 for her speaking engagements.

Molly Macek, education policy director for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, questioned spending $50,000 on a history curriculum disputed by scholars.

“It is essential that education funding be directed towards initiatives that taxpayers deem necessary and appropriate to improve student learning,” Macek told CapCon.

While Magness believes Hannah-Jones work is not worthy of inclusion in a curriculum, he said he does not support efforts to ban or censor the 1619 Project from classrooms. The debate around the flawed project could “provide fertile discussion material for educators,” he said. However, Magness added, Hannah-Jones’ actions show she does not want a balanced debate.

“In that case, the public has no obligation to subsidize a factually deficient and politicized curriculum through the expenditure of tax dollars,” Magness told CapCon.

Oakland University did not respond to a request for comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.