The 1619 Project And Ethics Villains Nicole Hannah-Jones And The New York Times

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.

Ya think????

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.

_________________________________

Sources: Reason, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Washington Examiner, American Greatness

23 thoughts on “The 1619 Project And Ethics Villains Nicole Hannah-Jones And The New York Times

  1. I’m all for finding nuggets of history previously forgotten or overlooked. Reframing the US and its founding as motivated by a fear of losing its slaves is an effort to get young Americans to throw the baby out with the bath water.

  2. 1619? First slaves in North America? That in itself is inaccurate, at least according to the many historians who indicate the first slaves were introduced by the Spanish into what is now Florida, circa 1526.

    The 1619 project is as flawed as those texts that “whitewash” our country’s history by minimizing the terrible practice of slavery and ignoring the contributions of African Americans in the Revolution, the Civil War, the 2 World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Gulf wars, Afghanistan …… ; to technology and literature, to philosophy and art, to theater and sports. Any oversights in those areas are not “corrected” or “balanced” by the 1619 project. Progressives preach “truth to power” but seem to be dedicated to “untruths to take power” (politically at least). And no, that is not intended to excuse the daily untruths we have seen and continue to see from some in power.

  3. The New York Times (NYT) and its fellow travelers have been, are, and will continue to rewrite history to destroy capitalism and this representative republic. The 1619 project is designed to legitimize and make their propaganda credible to those incapable of critical thought or misinformed to the point of being inclined toward demonstrably disastrous collectivism. It is the only chance they have to make the accomplishments of the American experiment appear, on the whole, ill-conceived, ill-gotten and ill-perpetuated. In short, the Constitution and faith in it must be eradicated.

    Just yesterday I was rewatching Ken Burns’ ‘Baseball’ (1994) and black American writer and Professor Gerald Early, Washington University, St. Louis, says in it the three things America will be remembered for are the Constitution, Jazz, and Baseball. I hope he still believes that is so and has not been polluted by the current 1619 style propaganda and insidious bias offered by the NYT.

  4. I don’t think changing “the colonists” to “some of the colonists” materially changes the passage. The word “some” is all but banned from Wikipedia, for instance, because it too weaselly. It can be used to misleading phrase a true statement to imply something else. Here, the implication remain “all colonists” not “tiny geographically limited subset of colonists”.

    In particular, the change is so small, I had to carefully parse to find the difference. I only knew there was a difference because the lines were different lengths. “[T]he unchanged biased and pejorative label “founding mythology.”” overrides any subtly communicated by the word “some”. It poisons passage from the beginning. The phrase similarly poisons the WWII example, rendering the weaselly little “some” moot.

    • Rich,

      I disagree. The addition of “some” changes the entire course of the sentence and guts the central theme of the 1619 Project. Here is her original declaration:

      “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.”

      That statement rips apart what has been known as the “American Experiment.” The Declaration of the Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were based upon the social contract theories of the 1700s, the Lockes, the Rousseaus, the Hobbes, the Jeffersons of their time. Those thinkers believed that the citizenry and the government had a social compact wherein the citizens consented to be governed by the government of their choosing. That thought fundamentally changed the role of government, from monarchs and kings, to elected officials carrying out the will of the people. Yet, Nikole Hannah-Jones expressly rejects that – in fact, she declares that nation was founded upon establishing and maintaining slavery, as if the initial Pilgrims and settlers got together at a pub in Birmingham, England to decide that Birmingham, Al, was the best place on the planet to institute slave ownership.

      Her declaration is amazingly devoid of anything resembling history, the abolitionists, and the way framers tried to end the abomination that is slavery after independence. It also ignores the conflicts that resulted in the Civil War. She added “some” in the middle of the statement. If “some”, but not “all”, wanted to maintain slavery, then not “all” wanted to continue it., and “some” wanted it to end. Consequently, slavery was not the central tenet of the newly formed colonies or the nation after the Revolutionary War. She can’t have it both ways. As a result, the Project 1619 is not history but ideology and propaganda, intended to distort and destroy the columns on which the new nation was formed: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Her dismissal of criticism is cynical and arrogant.

      jvb

      • I would agree Phlinn below who thought “some” roughly “less than 50%”. However, the claim that even say 30% of colonists primarily wanted to leave England to protect slavery would be a rather damning allegation if true. The goal of the sentence is to tarnish the American legacy, without factual basis. The mere addition of the words “some of” does not materially change message of the passage.

    • Once I spotted it, I thought it was a significant change, but that’s largely because “some of” automatically triggers the assumption that “most didn’t” for me any time I see it. It’s one of the hallmarks of weasel writing, because it covers such a huge range of numbers, but almost always less than 50% because the writer would use “most of” if they could.

      • It’s a complicated problem, though not as it arose in the 1619 project, which we deliberately misleading. How fair is it to say “the Left” believes/”progressives” believe/ “conservatives” believe/ feminists “believe”, and when? How about “whites,” “men,” “women,” “Blacks,” “Trump supporters” or “Americans”? Surely it is valid to make some general conclusions even when there are exceptions and outliers, right? But those exceptions and outliers are used by the group being criticized to deny that the criticism is valid. When is that a legitimate complaint?

        I would write a post on this, but frankly, I have no idea what the answer is.

  5. Thy NYT is absolute garbage. The sooner people realize it is putrid propaganda the better. It is a shame, but probably has been the case for easily 15 years now, and it is time that we stop giving them the benefit of the doubt based on their history. It is, and has been trash for more than a decade. There could be some good news in there, but it is impossible to tell because everything else is so slanted, so we cant tell what is legit and what is some idiot racist’s lunatic rantings. I have stopped using them as a source of anything, just like CNN FOX MSNBC et al.. If I want propaganda I can just go read a North Korean news release, it has about as much honesty as the NYT most of the times.

  6. History of the United States is recorded so we can learn from the actual events/facts in an effort to not repeat the same mistakes, history is not recorded by past historians just to be bastardized by current unethical political hacks and unethically used to destroy the United States we have right now.

    It’s nearly impossible to destroy a society that’s built on a solid foundation; these anti-establishment people are intentionally cherry picking throughout our society finding anything they can that supports or represents the solid foundations of our society and smear it until it no longer has any psychological value in our society. Progressives clearly want to remake the United States in their own pure image and to do that they must publicly diminish everything that makes the United States what it is today until all those core foundations that once supported our country crumble under the weight of their modern social justice campaign. Nikole Hannah-Jones is just one of the social justice warriors trying to shred the United States from the foundation up. The indoctrination by social justice warriors is a festering cancer upon our society and progressives are trying to shred our society from the foundation up, this kind of irrational antiism is spreading.

    I keep on saying it and I won’t stop; the irrational social justice warriors have already won the battle of the minds across the metropolitan areas of the United States, damn near all college campuses and infiltrating everything with their irrational poison including local governments and school boards and this is just one more small example that piles on the evidence to prove my argument. It’s happening over and over again and it won’t stop until there’s a HUGE public blow up somewhere where reality literally gets angry, gets in the face of the irrational social justice army of lunatics and the reality that’s unleashed makes the social justice warriors piss their pants and run for the hills. If necessary, this can happen one social justice warrior at a time but it needs to start happening.

  7. Way back when, I started to read this book by W.E.B. DuBois, entitled “The Suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America 1638-1870.”

    The name kind of says it all, but it went through various states and through history and identified the way they tried to prevent the spread of the slave trade and the various reasons for such suppression.

    I don’t think I ever finished it. It was interesting but got to be tedious at times; he went through various laws passed in the colonies to tax importation of slaves, for example.

    Wonder how much of this made it into the 1619 thing. Kinda runs counter to their whole thesis.

    -Jut

  8. The revision of scholarly work by propagandists, in order to “correct” the political implications thereof, is a very old practice with a long and ignoble history.

  9. Cynicism enters here: Once the new information (correct or not) enters the lesson plans, it is gospel, to be ignored or dismissed at any teacher’s peril.

  10. This is peripheral and black slaves and freemen served on both sides during the the American Revolution. In the North, after the British were defeated, slavery was prohibited in States North of the Mason Dixon Line.

  11. “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?”

    Problems with any of those statements:

    1) The pilots of the planes dropping the bombs could have since childbirth hated the Japanese to their core OR since childbirth have been utterly enamored with love of Japanese culture, they would have still dropped the bomb because they were ordered to by a lawfully constituted authority. And it wasn’t the military who ordered it, but the President. So military “racism” is completely immaterial here.

    2) Despite revisionists who like to cast America in the worst possible light and America’s opponents in the best possible light, the Japanese in the 1930s and early 1940s, to their eternal national shame, EARNED the animus they received. I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t have time to read multiple volumes of history to listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, his current series is called “Supernova in the East”. At least the first two episodes, here’s episode 1 – https://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-62-supernova-in-the-east-i/ .

    He does a great a job listing out the never ending litany of atrocities the Japanese visited on every single conquered people they encountered.

    They earned the hatred they received. Racism maybe accounted for 2% of the hatred people felt towards the Japanese…the vast majority of people’s attitudes were formed in reaction to the treatment of peoples by the Japanese forces.

  12. Jack — you have written many excellent posts over the years, but this one is particularly stellar.

    I have long been disgusted with the Times, but the 1619 Project is a new low, even for them. What amazes me more than this divisive and destructive project is that many of my dearest friends, whom I have known and loved for ages, think I am aping “Fox talking points” if I object.

    I’ll retire to Bedlam….

  13. The biggest lie is the lie that white Americans are the only group in the world that ever enslaved people. It may not be stated that way, but it is implied. Looking into the truth of historical slavery and especially African slavery would be disastrous to leftist beliefs.

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