News & Politics

Mark Levin Takes Aim at the New York Times' 1619 Project

Mark Levin. Source: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Nationally syndicated radio host Mark Levin has the New York Times’ “1619 Project” in his crosshairs. On the March 8 episode of “Life, Liberty, and Levin” on Fox News, he hammered away at what he framed as the lies told by revisionist historians working on the project for the Times. He continued his heavy critique on his daily radio show several times the following week.

The 1619 Project develops the premise that the colonists fought the Revolutionary War not for independence from England, but specifically to protect the practice of slavery in America. The first enslaved Africans arrived in the New World in 1619, which the project claims as the real founding of America. Thus, the theory goes, slavery is a foundational part of America’s DNA. It has turned into a whole section in the Times, with a book due out later this year and a podcast.

On Sunday, Levin interviewed former civil rights activist Bob Woodson for an hour-long program. Woodson, who is African American, founded the 1776 Project in response to 1619. The website describes the purpose:

“1776” is an assembly of independent voices who uphold our country’s authentic founding virtues and values and challenge those who assert America is forever defined by its past failures, such as slavery. We seek to offer alternative perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering its promise of equality and opportunity and highlight the resilience of its people. Our focus is on solving problems.

We do this in the spirit of 1776, the date of America’s true founding.

Woodson told Levin that he was a part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s before leaving to found the Woodson Center, a non-profit think tank dedicated to helping African Americans achieve greatness. He said of his falling out with the civil rights movement,

Well, when I was active in the Civil Rights Movement as a young worker, we were seeking opportunity for people to achieve, but the Civil Rights Movement, I think part of the company, when they used what I call a bait and switch game, they used the demographics of low income blacks as the bait, and when money arrived, the switch occurred.

And so they began to exploit the people. They also supported forced busing for integration. I said the opposite of segregation is not integration, it is desegregation.

Preferring to promote upward mobility rather than victimhood, Woodson said,

What I was pursuing is if you develop Centers of Excellence in communities …. we worked on perfecting excellence, and if you produce excellence, people will be drawn to you, and the integration should be a byproduct of the pursuit of excellence.

And so, this was one departure, and so I fell out of sorts with the Civil Rights Movement because of desegregation. I remember debating Julius Chambers before the New York Bar Association. He was a black PhD from Harvard, a lawyer.

And midway through the debate, I said, Julius, if we have two circumstances, you’ve got School A that is all black, but there’s a presence of excellence and School B with diminished sections, where should we send our children? He says School B. And I said, then there’s no debate.

And so what I have sought is to help low-income people to become empowered. And so that’s why I [parted company] with the Civil Rights Movement.

He had pointed criticism of the War on Poverty, saying,

Also when the poverty programs came, I knew that this was a scam. See, in 1960, when the government starts spending $22 trillion, 70 cents of every dollar did not go to the poor, it went to those who served the poor. They asked not which problems are solvable, but which ones are fundable.

And so what happened is we’ve created a commodity out of poor people. And so, as a consequence, there was no incentives to solve problems of the poor because the careers of those serving them were dependent upon having people to serve.

In that framework, Woodson strongly rebuked the premise of the 1619 Project:

It is one of the most diabolical, self-destructive ideas that I’ve ever heard. And what they’re doing is rewriting American history and unfortunately, they are using the suffering and struggle of black America as a bludgeon to beat America and define America as a criminal organization.

And it’s lethal — and what the — and the message that they are saying is all white Americans are oppressors and all black Americans are victims.

What this does, Mark, it means, therefore, the black community is exempting them from any kind of personal responsibility. It’s really white supremacy to assume that blacks have no agency.

Woodson went on to cite quite a few facts left out of the 1619 Project demonstrating that when slavery finally ended, African Americans enjoyed an extended period of education and prosperity in America.

Levin went on to talk about the opinion piece in Politico written by one of the original historians working on 1619. Leslie M. Harris wrote:

Weeks before, I had received an email from a New York Times research editor. Because I’m an historian of African American life and slavery, in New York, specifically, and the pre-Civil War era more generally, she wanted me to verify some statements for the project. At one point, she sent me this assertion: “One critical reason that the colonists declared their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery in the colonies, which had produced tremendous wealth. At the time there were growing calls to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, which would have badly damaged the economies of colonies in both North and South.

I vigorously disputed the claim. Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war.

I was concerned that critics would use the overstated claim to discredit the entire undertaking.

Woodson responded by saying,

Mark, there are two ways to prevent people from competing. One, to deny them by law the way we did under segregation. But the more insidious way is to convince them that they don’t have to compete.

That because of their history of oppression, that your oppressor is obligated to be responsible for your future. That is a recipe for absolute disaster for people.

It says, if you’re robbing and killing one another, it’s not your fault. If you’re having babies out of wedlock, and not taking care of them, it’s not your fault.

Levin has kept up the theme all week, blasting the 1619 Project for rewriting history and ignoring facts that don’t support the premise.

On his website, incidentally, Woodson includes several essays by black scholars refuting the idea that slavery fatally defines America. One of the more shocking was penned by ultra-liberal columnist Clarence Page. In it, he wrote:

In 2019, marking 400 years since the first known Africans arrived on these shores from West Africa as slaves, the New York Times launched its ambitious 1619 Project. It aimed to reexamine U.S. history through the lens of black history — as if American history began with the arrival of the first black folks.

The concept was well-intended, and the execution of its first episode well-documented. Yet, it left me feeling that the New York Times missed at least half of the story. By looking through the lens of black victimization, it paid too little attention to what I call “black overcoming” — our victories over adversity and achievements of success, sometimes in conflict but also often in cooperation with people from other races and ethnic groups.

The New York Times incorrectly assumes that the challenges facing particularly inner-city blacks are related to a legacy of slavery and discrimination. This is patently untrue.

When even Clarence Page rejects the premise of black victimhood and slavery as fatal to the American experiment, the New York Times just might want to reexamine the whole notion. One thing’s for sure: Mark Levin and Bob Woodson will continue to beat the drum that the 1619 Project gets American history disturbingly wrong.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, “Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy,” available now at www.WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Jeff hosts a podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain. You can follow him on Twitter @ChargerJeff.