Cotton made the remarks in an interview with a home-state newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His comments come on the back of a bill he introduced in the Senate to prohibit the use of federal dollars to fund the teaching of history, according to the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project traces the history of the United States from the year the first batch of enslaved Africans were settled in the country from their homes in Africa. The Project seeks to explain how pertinent slavery was to the founding of the country with particular regard to America’s economic might.
The education was intended for young Americans in K-12 schools. But Cotton disagrees with the Project’s philosophy, saying:
“The entire premise of the New York Times’ factually, historically flawed 1619 Project … is that America is at root, a systemically racist country to the core and irredeemable….America is a great and noble country founded on the proposition that all mankind is created equal. We have always struggled to live up to that promise, but no country has ever done more to achieve it.”
Cotton added that he had fears for the ramifications the 1619 Project held for America’s future and development.
“As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as [Abraham] Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction,” the lawmaker added.
The backlash against Cotton’s comments has been instant and fierce.
One of the Project’s contributors, Nicole-Hannah Jones, tweeted in response: “Imagine thinking a non-divisive curriculum is one that tells black children the buying and selling of their ancestors, the rape, torture, and forced labor of their ancestors for PROFIT, was just a ‘necessary evil’ for the creation of the ‘noblest’ country the world has ever seen.”