This disturbing story is signature significance.
The New York Times Magazine published its 1619 Project, named for the date of the first arrival of Africans on American soil, in August or 2019 with great fanfare and self congratulation. It purported to be a traditional wisdom-shaking view of America’s founding, placing slavery at the center of American political, social, and economic institutions, not a revolutionary desire by a remarkable group of visionaries to establish a culture rooted in human liberty, Time reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones championed and conceived the project, and authored the introduction to the epic, writing in part, “Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.”
Hannah-Jones was candid about her objectives. “When my editor asks me, like, what’s your ultimate goal for the project, my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.” She was, she said, thrilled that people told her that they feel “they are understanding the architecture of their country in a way that they had not.”
From the beginning, the Times publication was clearly an ideological enterprise, and squarely within the paper’s partisan mission. Because that mission is shared by most of the most influential media sources, including NPR, it was almost universally praised. That endorsement was not restricted to journalism, however.
For decades, colleges and universities, bolstered by popular culture and propaganda from the mainstream media, have immersed rising generations in the narrative that America is an oppressive, white supremacist culture in need of fundamental reform. The 1619 Project offered an accompanying school lesson plan for junior high and high-schoolers, and since its publication, teachers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia (of course) taught parts of its curriculum. Just last month the Buffalo Public Schools announced their district will “infuse 1619 Project resources into the mainstream English and Social Studies . . . at grades 7-12.” Montgomery County, Maryland, and the Chicago Public Schools have followed.
The deconstruction of American pride and its origins as a nation founded on values rather than nationalistic and economic objectives is an essential predicate for so many of the Left’s plans for the country. Is this assessment unfair (by Arthur Milihk)?
No longer preaching faith in the Constitution or civic brotherhood, the New York Times hopes that—by creating enough hatred for the nation’s founding, its ideals, and for America’s majority group—justice and harmony will somehow emerge…No longer really a newspaper, the Times more and more represents the postmodern age of propaganda; its goals of moral and political transformation, distinct from honest reporting, are barely hidden. And the 1619 Project seems to have at least three such goals…young people must learn to despise their nation—its Constitution, ideals, economic system, and its Founders. They must resent and reject their past; possess an aggressive, contemptuous, and disobedient attitude toward the present; and strive forcefully to create a triumphant future where the enemies of old are punished, and the innocent finally rule. [And],as Hannah-Jones explains,… to get “white people to give up whiteness.”
I can be a gullible fool sometimes. With everything I know about the Times, I read the “project” as accurate, recently uncovered history. There is so much in our past that is never taught, or in an amazing number of cases, took decades, centuries even, to tise to the surface of our awareness. It never occurred to me that it was a biased and sinister misrepresentation, and I certainly did not have the time or access to primary sources to challenge such an extensive screed, much less the credentials to be heeded if I had.
Ethics alarms rang for some authorities, however. Princeton historian Sean Wilentz, began circulating a letter objecting to the project as well as Hannah-Jones’s motivations. As I have pointed out during this blog’s coverage of the Post 2016 Election Ethics Train Wreck, few professions have become more left-leaning and politicized as academics in general and historians in particular, but the letter acquired the signatures of four leading scholars in addition to Wilentz: James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes. (Academics, immersed in a warm and profitable cocoon of ideological conformity on their various campuses, have also revealed themselves as cowards over the past three years. I have no doubt that far more than five historians saw the deception in the 1619 Project.)
The five sent the letter to Times editors and the paper’s publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, on December 4, 2019, and read in part,
We write as historians to express our strong reservations about important aspects of The 1619 Project. The project is intended to offer a new version of American history in which slavery and white supremacy become the dominant organizing themes… Raising profound, unsettling questions about slavery and the nation’s past and present, as The 1619 Project does, is a praiseworthy and urgent public service. Nevertheless, we are dismayed at some of the factual errors in the project and the closed process behind it.
These errors, which concern major events, cannot be described as interpretation or “framing.” They are matters of verifiable fact, which are the foundation of both honest scholarship and honest journalism. They suggest a displacement of historical understanding by ideology. Dismissal of objections on racial grounds — that they are the objections of only “white historians” — has affirmed that displacement.
On the American Revolution, pivotal to any account of our history, the project asserts that the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain “in order to ensure slavery would continue.” This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding — yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false. Some of the other material in the project is distorted, including the claim that “for the most part,” black Americans have fought their freedom struggles “alone.”
…The project criticizes Abraham Lincoln’s views on racial equality but ignores his conviction that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed universal equality, for blacks as well as whites, a view he upheld repeatedly against powerful white supremacists who opposed him…[T]he project asserts that the United States was founded on racial slavery…The 1619 Project has not been presented as the views of individual writers …Instead, the project is offered as an authoritative account that bears the imprimatur and credibility of The New York Times. Those connected with the project have assured the public that its materials were shaped by a panel of historians and have been scrupulously fact-checked. Yet the process remains opaque….
Two weeks ago, Leslie Harris, a Northwestern University historian who helped fact-check the 1619 Project, revealed that when she raised some of the same points made by the five historians to Nikole Hannah-Jones, she was ignored. Wrote Harris in Politico,
“On August 19 of last year I listened in stunned silence as Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, repeated an idea that I had vigorously argued against..Far from being fought to preserve slavery, the Revolutionary War became a primary disrupter of slavery in the North American Colonies. Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, a British military strategy designed to unsettle the Southern Colonies by inviting enslaved people to flee to British lines, propelled hundreds of enslaved people off plantations and turned some Southerners to the patriot side. It also led most of the 13 Colonies to arm and employ free and enslaved black people, with the promise of freedom to those who served in their armies. While neither side fully kept its promises, thousands of enslaved people were freed as a result of these policies….Despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about the American Revolution anyway, in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay. In addition, the paper’s characterizations of slavery in early America reflected laws and practices more common in the antebellum era than in Colonial times, and did not accurately illustrate the varied experiences of the first generation of enslaved people that arrived in Virginia in 1619.
After the 1619 Project debuted, Hannah-Jones was dismissive and contemptuous of the project’s critics, like The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf and the American Institute for Economic Research’s Phil Magness. After Harris’s column however, the reporter was forced to admit a distortion and to address it. Hannah-Jones tweeted, “We made an important clarification to my #1619Project essay about the colonists’ motivations during the American Revolution. In attempting to summarize and streamline, journalists can sometimes lose important context and nuance. I did that here.”
In the original essay, the reparations advocate wrote,
Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.
The corrected passage now reads:
Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.
“The clarification is small — just two words — but important,” Hannah-Jones said on Twitter.
Let’s put aside the unchanged biased and pejorative label “founding mythology.” The change from all colonists to “some” is more than “important.” The two-word edit rebuts the thesis of the entire project. That’s not a “small” clarification. If the “Hiroshima Project” began with a statement, “Conveniently left out of our Word War II mythology about the bombing of Hiroshima is the fact that the American military had a racist hatred of the Japanese,” and it should have read, “Conveniently left out of our World War II mythology about the bombing of Hiroshima is the fact that some members of American military had a racist hatred of the Japanese,” would that be a “small” change?
Then the Times, continuing its role as a co-ethics villain in this episode, published a Ratheresque editor’s note, a non-apology apology arguing that the 1619 Project was wrong but accurate. It also did not bother to change the headline to Hannah-Jones introduction, which still reads, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true.”
Writes Becket Jones in the Washington Examiner:
Hannah-Jones deserves no praise for at long last correcting an error fundamental to her entire project, which had been brought to her attention almost seven months ago by multiple academics whose objections any intellectually serious, humble person would have heeded.
But she is obviously not intellectually serious, nor ethical or trustworthy. Neither are her editors, or The New York Times. These are anti-America propagandists with a culture altering political agenda they are determined to achieve by any means necessary. This time, they were exposed. Most of the time, they are not.