Rita Davenport’s testimony at the Iowa House subcommittee hearing on the 1619 Project:
My name is Rita Davenport. I have recently retired after over 30 years working with students in higher education. I am a life-long Iowan. My ancestors settled in Iowa in 1885. I enjoy learning history and the study of genealogy is a hobby for me. Due to these interests, I have a strong understanding of the cultural and historical influences in my own family’s history. By knowing my own history, I can articulate my own perspective and share why I believe as I do.
My family’s 136-year history in Iowa isn’t “whitewashed” history. It is real and it is as important and as valid as the experiences of any other Iowan’s family history.
Additionally, from 2014-2018 I served in an appointment to the Commission on the Status of African Americans which is part of the Iowa Department of Human Rights. That appointment allowed me to further expand my knowledge base about Black Iowa and the issues that affect Black Iowans.
Throughout my life, I’ve been very aware that many of the differences among us have to do with economic class rather than race. I do not discount that class disparities that exist to this day began with systemic racism, such as redlining. I am not of the opinion that the systemic iniquities that happened in our collective American history are reason to declare that everything in our nation’s history is evil and racist. The curriculum of the ‘1619 Project’ inaccurately teaches our children to believe that the very birth of our nation is due to the desire to preserve slavery. That is just one of many inaccuracies.
I am also known in many circles as a Christian Conservative Republican. As such, I am in good company with noteworthy Black Conservative scholars and thought leaders including Bob Woodson, Shelby Steele, Walter Williams, Carol Swain, Herman Cain and Dr. Ben Carson. I have paid particular attention to the work of Bob Woodson who developed the “1776 Unites” curriculum which counters the narrative of the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
1776 Unites offers resources including lesson plans, activities, and reading guides that tell a more accurate, complete and inspiring history of Black Americans by highlighting Black excellence rather than victimhood. I believe we uplift and strengthen our nation when we teach children about America’s founding principles and exceptionalism – which is not determined by race or other immutable physical characteristics. I can personally relate to that and I believe that the successes my ancestors achieved were specifically because they did not see themselves as victims.
In my 57 years, I have never felt that I could not achieve anything because of my race. I earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree without special treatment or consideration based on my membership in a ‘minority group’ or ‘protected class’. I also closely follow Dr. Carol Swain, retired Vanderbilt Professor, who was recently appointed Vice Chair to the “1776 Commission.”
The Commission was formed by President Trump in anticipation of our country’s 250th anniversary. The goal is to provide truth, perspective and patriotic education at this critical time in our history when society is ‘blaming and shaming’ and not aware of or rejecting the truth of our collective American History which is based on our great Constitution. Specifically, the 1776 Commission report encouraged teachers to teach our children about the core principles of the founding of our nation.
This brings me to the reason I am before you. House File 222. I strongly agree that if taxpayer funds are being used, our children should not be miseducated which is what the “1619 Project” has been shown to do. The ‘agenda’ of such teaching is creating division and pushing a permanent ‘victimhood’ status.
The BLM movement and its Marxist ideology seek to permanently change (and I believe “destroy”) our country by “repackaging” our national history as something evil from its core and therefore, not worth preserving. I say beware, these same types will never be satisfied – until their ‘change’ movement includes rewriting the Constitution.
On the contrary, there is also a movement of law-abiding, freedom-loving patriots in our nation. We know that we can save our country – if our children are taught civics and to understand our Constitution rather than being miseducated into the belief that our nation is only the “oppressed” and the “oppressors.” I wonder if people will ever realize that it is dangerous to put people in race and class groups? The Founders and the Constitution have brought us this far. We owe it to our children and future generations to believe and live out our foundational guarantee: that we are all endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There is nothing wrong with our United States Constitution. What’s wrong is it’s not being taught.