October 17, 2020

THE 1619 PROJECT: DOWN, BUT FAR FROM OUT. Despite sustained criticism, this wretched New York Times initiative is still being promoted in schools:

Soon after publication of the 1619 Project, leading authorities on American history spoke out and exposed its multiple factual errors and unsupported assertions. Five prominent historians penned a letter to the Times in December 2019, arguing against the project’s ‘displacement of historical understanding by ideology’. One was Sean Wilentz, a liberal historian at Princeton and author of No Property in Man, which explores the issue of slavery and the founding fathers. Wilentz recently told the Washington Post about his initial reaction to Hannah-Jones’ lead essay: ‘I threw the thing across the room, I was so astounded, because I ran across a paragraph on the American Revolution, and it was just factually wrong.’ Indeed, Wilentz and others find the essay’s central claim – that the colonists’ primary motivation in fighting the American Revolution was to maintain slavery – to be patently false.

In the face of this criticism, Hannah-Jones and Jake Silverstein, the project’s editor-in-chief, refused to issue corrections and declined to engage in debate. The Times, said Silverstein, had ‘concluded no corrections are warranted’. Then in March, Leslie Harris, a professor of history at Northwestern University and a fact-checker for the Times, revealed she had identified numerous errors when reviewing the 1619 Project, but the Times ignored all of them. Harris, who is sympathetic to the project’s mission, told the Times that the statement ‘the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America’ was false. In response to Harris, the Times added a ‘clarification’ to Hannah-Jones’ essay, saying that ‘some of’ the colonists wanted to protect slavey – yet even this revised formulation is misleading and has little support among historians.

Silverstein doubles down in response to Bret Stephens’ pushback, mentioned at the start of the above Spiked article; here’s his lede:

The 1619 Project, which was conceived of and led by Nikole Hannah-Jones, a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, advances a bold claim: that the date when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the English colonies that would become the United States — August of 1619 — can be regarded as the nation’s birth or point of origin. Why does the project propose this? In part because, as its essays show, the system of slavery and oppression that began on this date has led to so many of the problems that define our past and our present; in part because, as Hannah-Jones argues, the struggle against this system of oppression has been a pivotal freedom movement unfolding across many generations to advance progress for American society as a whole; and in part to advance the case that, as the heroes of both of these stories, Black Americans, whose presence in the English colonies that would become the United States began on this date, should occupy a central role in American history.

Emphasis mine. In a related development, Timesman Binyamin Appelbaum, he of the “You worked for a company that was fixing bread prices viral fame, spoken to Pete Buttigieg in January in the tone of a Bond supervillain, tweets something as equally melodramatic sounding:

But it seems rather contradictory to see one Timesman issuing a “plea to defend the United States,” when his newspaper has gone all-in on declaring the nation as having been founded in original sin.  In any case, the last Republican president the Times endorsed was Ike in 1956, and as Iowahawk tweets, “’Are you seriously telling me the New York Times has come out against Trump? Man, I need to sit down and rethink my vote.’ — literally not one person on Planet Earth.”

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