Harvey Graff

I was sorting the postal delivery recently when I opened an envelope addressed to my wife. It announced a “national campaign” and “citizen opinion survey” from the right-wing activist group Faith & Freedom Caucus’s “founder and chairman” Dr. Ralph Reed, PhD (redundantly and insecurely using both Dr. and PhD).

Aware of the group and its negative reputation among the legitimate media and public interest groups, I noticed these bold-typed statements leading the pitch and request for donations: “To Teach Millions of Young Americans What Made America Great and Train the Next Generation of Patriotic Leaders for America” and “Concerning the Assault on America by the Media, Our Nation’s Educational Institutions and Today’s Democratic Party.” I also noted that Reed boasted a “PhD in American History from Emory University” and writing “a number of books on America’s history and politics—including three national best-sellers.”

My household is not the usual recipient of such marketing campaigns. I am a retired professor of history active in a variety of education, advisory, and advocacy efforts with a focus on combatting the lies about critical race theory and teaching about race, racism, and slavery, especially in K-12 schools. We do not know why our family was on this mailing list. Our usual mail (when it is delivered) is dominated by requests from animal welfare, anti-poverty and anti-hunger, international rescue, civil rights, free speech, and liberal to progressive groups, many of whom we support.

Several months later, we received a strikingly similar dishonest, anti-democratic, and anti-Christian mailing--predominantly a request for donations--from evangelical Hillsdale College in Michigan. Hillsdale does not claim accreditation by any recognized body. Its website reads much more like a sales catalogue for right-wing propaganda, including Donald Trump’s notorious 1776 Project, than an institution of higher education. Its rewriting of “a classical education” is especially glaring.

Given my professional and personal interests, I read these screeds. As I am neither the average reader nor an intended recipient, it was difficult. The Faith & Freedom Caucus attack ad is a pile of hate mail, one of the most dishonest pieces of nonsense I have ever received. It is neither “Christian” in its lying, indiscriminant, and uncharitable attacks on other persons, nor the writing of a knowledgeable and responsible historian. Almost every sentence in Reed’s letter is demonstrably false; the “survey” does not seek opinion but markets extremist propaganda and disinformation. I strongly feel the need to publicize the FFC’s and Reed’s dishonest marketing.

Among the eye-catching false statements: phrases that mention God in passing in the Declaration of Independence taken out of context and both underlined and highlighted in boldface; “America went on to become the freest, most prosperous nation in history because of the conviction of America’s founders… because they come from God”; “slavery was quickly abolished in most of the United States soon after the American Revolution”; “slavery was the norm throughout the world until America was founded”; “slavery still goes on in much of the world today.” Reed, I remind readers, claims to hold a PhD in American history although he has never practiced history professionally.

The problem, course, is that “the radical Left [and its agent, the Democratic party] is trying to tear down America by distorting and erasing America’s true history.” To do this, “Leftist rioters are tearing down statues and monuments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and the great heroes who built America” because “America’s children and college students are being taught by our schools that America was built on racism and evil. (Boldface in the letter.) They are being taught that capitalism is wicked and socialism is the way we should go.” The agent: “radical Left (really Communist) indoctrination” in schools. The result: “Polls now show that college students today overwhelmingly favor socialism over capitalism.” The great danger: “America will be lost forever very quickly—within the next few years.”

Not one word of this is true. It is an unabashed—undocumented and undocumentable—set of lies that together constitute the Second Biggest Lie of our times (following the Big Lie about the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 insurrection). It comes from a self-declared Christian and American historian, asking for contributions to combat the “assault on America” and “impending doom.”

Needless to say, this marketing of dishonesty and hate is a threat to American democracy that we must actively resist on all levels and by all legal means. The good news: This preaching only appeals to the already converted “true believers.”

[See my essays and forum “Republicans assault fact-based American history and promote popular ignorance,” Columbus Dispatch, May 28, 2021


“The attack on critical race theory threatens our democracy,” Inside Higher Education, Aug. 2, 2021 (;; “There Is No Debate About Critical Race Theory: How GOP politicians and conservative activists are trying to create controversy where there is none,” Washington Monthly, Sept. 4, 2021


“Fiction and Fact about Critical Race Theory,” Forum,Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, Ohio State University, Sept. 9, 2021

(; “The New White Fright and Flight and the Critical Race Theory Nondebate,”Academe Blog, Sept. 29, 2021



Harvey J. Graff is Professor Emeritus of English and History and Ohio Eminent Scholar at The Ohio State University. He is the author of many books on social history including The Literacy Mythand The Dallas Myth. His specialties include the history and present condition of literacy and education including higher education, children and families, cities, interdisciplinarity, and contemporary politics, culture, and society