We introduced readers to The New York Times 1619 Project in this post. It now looks like there are some people who do not like the newspaper’s attempt to observe the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. Here are a few examples:
Limbaugh spent his first hour today talking about the New York Times’ new “1619” project, trashing America. Calling every aspect of our great nation racist.
Dear Americans, the New York Times hates you!
Red, yellow, black, and especially white you are loathsome in their sight.
— ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Rob – Proud member of Society’s Dregs (@RobDreg) August 20, 2019
— Media Matters (@mmfa) August 19, 2019
What is the 1619 project? In NYT’s words: “It aims to REFRAME OUR COUNTRY’S HISTORY, understanding 1619 as OUR TRUE FOUNDING, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the STORY WE TELL ourselves about who we are.” 4/x https://t.co/iTLNZcafyN
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 19, 2019
One of the singular problems with the @nytimes 1619 Project is that it doesn’t attempt to ascertain truth. Instead it explicitly intends to frame and shape narrative. It started at its conclusion and twisted or ignored facts to fit the conclusion. It’s activism, not journalism.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 19, 2019
I am not surprised by any of this. I knew there would be push-back when I read that The New York Times was framing the 1619 Project as an attempt to “frame the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and, placing the consequences of slavery, and the contribution of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
I wonder if any of the aforementioned tweeters have read the essays in the 1619 Project. Most of them probably stopped after they read the words “frame” and “true founding.”
Historians, of course, have been bringing slavery to the center of the American story for a long time–more than half a century. The 1619 Project reflects this scholarship and takes it to its logical conclusion.
Frankly, the 1619 project is excellent. Americans need to wrestle with the legacy of slavery. I hope teachers will use it in their classrooms.
Newt Gingrich is completely wrong when he says that “if you are an African American slavery is at the center of what YOU see as the American experience, but for most Americans, most of the time, there were a lot of other things going on.” Gingrich is an embarrassment. (I am especially tough on him because he has a Ph.D in history).
So what were some of those “other things going on?”
Edmund Morgan, of course, showed us that American freedom has always been intricately linked to American slavery. Pennsylvania farmers in the so-called “best poor man’s country in the world,” pursued their “American” dream by supplying grain to feed West Indian slaves in the British sugar colonies. As historians Edward Baptist, Sven Beckert, and others have taught us, slavery fueled capitalism and American economic growth. Even those living in the free-soil north benefited from the wealth generated by slave labor. As Robert Parkinson argues in his recent book, the racial fears of American patriots had something to do with the way they understood the Revolution. In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I trace the history of race and the legacy of slavery in shaping an evangelical approach to political life. And we could go on.
But there is plenty of room at the “center” of the American story for native Americans, women, working people, white people, and many others. We can’t forget, for example, that Western ideas, as articulated in some of our founding documents and by people of Christian faith, provided the impetus for the abolition of slavery.
History is messy and complex. We should make every effort to remember our past. And now is the time to remember the significance of 1619 and the central role that slavery and racism has played in the making of America.