Historians slam The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project”

Historians slam The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project”

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Multiple historians criticized The New York Times Magazine’s “1619 Project,” calling the reframing of history ridiculous and false.

The “1619 Project” is made of multiple stories and poems about racism and slavery, and is written by journalists and opinion writers. It suggests America’s “true founding” was when the first slaves arrived in 1619 and “aims to reframe the country’s history.”

Historian and Brown University professor Gordon Wood called the project “wrong in so many ways” in an interview with World Socialist Web Site (WSWS).

“I had no warning about this. … I was surprised, as many other people were, by the scope of this thing, especially since it’s going to become the basis for high school education and has the authority of the New York Times behind it, and yet it is so wrong in so many ways,” Wood said.

The “1619 Project” has already been implemented as a teaching tool in some public schools around the country, with lesson plans available for schools to begin teaching this reframed history, The Daily Caller reports.

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Wood said no one approached him about the project and that “none of the leading scholars of the whole period from the Revolution to the Civil War” were consulted either.

James M. McPherson, American Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also interviewed by WSWS and he called the project lacking in “context and perspective.” Like Wood, McPherson was never made aware of the project.

“Because this is a subject I’ve long been interested in I sat down and started to read some of the essays,” McPherson said. “I’d say that, almost from the outset, I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history.”

“And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view.”

He said that lead writer of the “1619 Project” Nikole Hannah-Jones’s claim that “anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country” did not “make much sense” to him.

“I suppose she’s using DNA metaphorically,” McPherson said. “She argues that racism is the central theme of American history. It is certainly part of the history. But again, I think it lacks context, lacks perspective on the entire course of slavery and how slavery began and how slavery in the United States was hardly unique.”

“But the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true.”

Historian James Oakes said that “their work has prompted some very strong criticism from scholars in the field.”

“These are really dangerous tropes,” Oakes said about some of the claims the project makes. “They’re not only ahistorical, they’re actually anti-historical. The function of those tropes is to deny change over time. It goes back to those analogies.” Oakes added that some of the project’s assertions are just “ridiculous.”

Hannah-Jones dismissed the historian’s viewpoints of the “1619 Project.”

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