I received the following alarming notice from a friend in Illinois. Some organization wants to know whether schools in the state have any articles or books cited in “The 1619 Project.” This looks like the beginning of a McCarthyite witch hunt.

Subject: Interested in the 1619 Project? Work in IL schools and educational spaces? You’ll want to be aware of this. Public school districts are receiving this FOIA notice from a company called LocalLabs, a Chicago-based publisher (of sorts) that sells its FOIA research to news media outlets of all kinds. The librarians I work with are now scrambling with their districts’ attorneys and compliance officers to fulfill this request. I find it interesting that they’ve cherry-picked these particular titles and perhaps you do, too.

Their intent is unclear; their request, perfectly legal. It’s annoying for these personnel to have to take time away from students in order to comply but that’s our reality in schools today.

The request’s wording demonstrates a relative lack of understanding how school library holdings are cataloged, however, which is making compliance all the more time-consuming.

Here’s the form email they’ve been receiving from LocalLabs, which you can readily access through Googling.

I am writing to you on behalf of LocalLabs which is an online publication that reports on and informs the public about local government activities. If you are not the FOIA officer please forward it to the FOIA officer or reply to this email with the correct FOIA contact.

Pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting electronic records (preferably non-PDF such as CSV, Excel) of the following:·

A list of all materials in your district that fall under the 1619 project. For reference, the 1619 project contains works with the following titles and authors:

“America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One”, essay by Nikole Hannah-Jones·

“American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace That to the Plantation”, essay by Matthew Desmond·

“How False Beliefs in Physical Racial Difference Still Live in Medicine Today”, essay by Linda Villarosa·

“What the Reactionary Politics of 2019 Owe to the Politics of Slavery”, essay by Jamelle Bouie·

“Why Is Everyone Always Stealing Black Music?”, essay by Wesley Morris·

“How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam”, essay by Kevin Kruse·

“Why Doesn’t America Have Universal Healthcare? One Word: Race”, essay by Jeneen Interlandi·

“Why American Prisons Owe Their Cruelty to Slavery”, essay by Bryan Stevenson·

“The Barbaric History of Sugar in America”, essay by Khalil Gibran Muhammad·

“How America’s Vast Racial Wealth Gap Grew: By Plunder”, essay by Trymaine Lee·

“Their Ancestors Were Enslaved by Law. Now They’re Lawyers”, photo essay by Djeneba Aduayom, with text from Nikole Hannah-Jones and Wadzanai Mhute·

“A New Literary Timeline of African-American History”, a collection of original poems and stories

o Clint Smith on the Middle Passage

o Yusef Komunyakaa on Crispus Attucks

o Eve L. Ewing on Phillis Wheatley

o Reginald Dwayne Betts on the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793

o Barry Jenkins on Gabriel’s Rebellion

o Jesmyn Ward on the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves

o Tyehimba Jess on Black Seminoles

o Darryl Pinckney on the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863

o ZZ Packer on the New Orleans massacre of 1866

o Yaa Gyasi on the Tuskegee syphilis experiment

o Jacqueline Woodson on Sgt. Isaac Woodard

o Joshua Bennett on the Black Panther Party

o Lynn Nottage on the birth of hip-hop

o Kiese Laymon on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “rainbow coalition” speech

o Clint Smith on the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina·

A list of all books written by authors Ibram X. Kendi (aka Henry Rogers) or Robin DiAngelo that are used in curriculum or libraries in your school district.