Katelynn Richardson, Campus Reform
- One university reported spending up to $10,000, others confirmed they contribute financially in return for advertising.
- Many scholars are activists who push Critical Race Theory, queer theory, and other leftist ideologies in the articles.
Universities from across the United States and United Kingdom are sponsoring The Washington Post’s “Made by History” blog, with multiple institutions putting thousands of dollars into the project.
Founded in 2017, “Made by History,” originally aimed to “shine a light on why so many Americans feel so aggrieved” in the era of President Trump and invite scholars to contribute articles, applying a historical perspective to modern times.
Of the nine universities listed as sponsors, three confirmed to Campus Reform that they provide monetary support.
Virginia Tech reported spending $10,000 a year, the University of North Carolina Press “a few thousand dollars spread out over the last few years,” and Chapman University “some financial support in return for advertising.”
“The Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is a sponsor of the Made by History website. Sponsorship is $10,000 per year,” Mark Owczarski, the Associate Vice President for University Relations at Virginia Tech University, told Campus Reform. “The Made by History website offers a venue for our faculty to present their original research that provides historical context for contemporary issues.”
The “Made by History” about page promises that contributing scholars “won’t distort or weaponize history” to advance an agenda, as so often happens at the “hands of politicians and commentators.” Yet many contributing authors are activists who push Critical Race Theory, queer theory, and other leftist ideas in their scholarship.
Nikita Shepard, who wrote the article “Anti-trans legislation has never been about protecting children,” studies and teaches “histories of LGBTQ communities, gender and sexuality, race and social movements in the United States” at Columbia University.
Shepard argues that rhetoric about protecting children from life-altering surgeries and hormone blocker drugs lies “in efforts to defend white supremacy.”
“Tracing the ugly history of conservative efforts to combat school desegregation, welfare, reproductive freedom and gay and lesbian rights by claiming threats to children helps us understand why politicians today think they can gain votes by brutalizing vulnerable children in the name of protecting them,” Shepard writes.
Similarly, Marie-Amélie George, a professor at Wake Forest Law, penned an article against religious liberty.
After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Catholic organization over the city of Philadelphia, because they were excluded from the city’s foster-care program, the “Made by History” series tweeted that “This ruling may harm the very children that the state is charged with protecting.”
This ruling may harm the very children that the state is charged with protecting. A recent @madebyhistory piece by @ProfMAGeorge lays out the stakes and ironies of this case.https://t.co/MFzVZB76od https://t.co/j8Jch1UdYI
— madebyhistory (@madebyhistory) June 17, 2021
Many universities are using the project as a way to maximize exposure to their research and increase their audience.
“This is a transaction to raise the profile of the UNC Press among our potential customers,” Peter L Perez, Director of Public Relations and Communications for the University of North Carolina Press, told Campus Reform.
The UNC Press operates as the publisher of the 17 campus UNC System.
Kyle Longley, Director of the War and Society program and professor of History at Chapman University, told Campus Reform that sponsors are invited to contribute their scholarship to the column.
“The association with The Washington Post is just one example of how our research and scholarship at Chapman are valuable beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” Longley said, adding this partnership was “one of many different efforts” used to raise awareness for the program across different audiences.
The Made by History blog’s Twitter account frequently promotes contributors’ books through the articles they contribute.
In the Middle Ages, anti-blackness and transphobia existed and intersected in complex ways. Understanding how they existed in the Byzantine Empire can help us to understand the roots of these "ideologies of hatred" today, writes @ProfBetancourthttps://t.co/6RlvJA8nPQ
— madebyhistory (@madebyhistory) June 16, 2021
One book the blog promoted was “Byzantine Intersectionality: Sexuality, Gender, and Race in the Middle Ages,” by Roland Betancourt, a UC Irvine professor. In Bentancourt’s op-ed based on the book, he attempts to debunk the idea that we are living in a “post-racial present” by tracing the roots of “anti-blackness and transphobia” to the Byzantine empire.
According to Betancourt, the Byzantines “privileged Whiteness in their descriptions of feminine beauty and often contoured their own identity through a prism of anti-Blackness.”
He also writes that although Christianity posited itself as beyond ethnic categories, it “still retained the deep anti-Blackness rooted in ancient theories of racialized and gendered differences” in the Middle Ages.
“The Middle Ages offer crucial lessons to us today as we continue the struggle for trans rights, work against anti-Black police brutality and articulate the importance of teaching our history of racism in classrooms,” Betancourt concludes.
The series even misled readers about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Republicans in 2017, stating that the bill’s final version contained provisions “benefitting home-schooling families,” which would be “a hidden threat to the foundation of American democracy.”
However, the provisions were stripped from the final version of the bill, and The Washington Post’s “Made by History” series was forced to write a correction.
Nonetheless, even after the correction, the article, written by professors at the University of Virginia and Western Washington University, still argued that “The new tax law poses a hidden threat to American democracy.”
Campus Reform reached out to Oregon State, Penn State, Villanova University, Cambridge University, Boston University, and the University of Pennsylvania, and The Washington Post, for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter @katesrichardson.