If the New York Times gets its way, American history will no longer be defined by the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War, but by the slave trade and the accomplishments of black Americans.
Through its “1619 Project,” the paper is hoping to “reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
The year 1619 marks the beginning of the slave trade in the United States.
“Our Democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written,” claims project leader Nikole Hannah-Jones. “Black Americans have fought to make them true.”
In an interview with PBS’s Hari Sreenivasan, Hannah-Jones describes the goals of the 1619 Project:
“You don’t have very many opportunities to ever celebrate the 400th anniversary of anything, and it seemed to me that this was a great opportunity to really…reframe the way that we have thought about an institution that has impacted almost everything in modern American society, but that we’re taught very little about, that we’re often taught is marginal to the American story,”
The project has already published essays tying slavery to healthcare, capitalism, geography, prisons, music, traffic jams, and sugar.
“We’re really trying to change the way that Americans are thinking that this was just a problem of the past that we’ve resolved and show that it isn’t,” says Hannah-Jones. “If we truly understand that black people are fully American and so the struggle of black people to make our union actually reflect its values is not a negative thing against the country, because we are citizens who are working to make this country better for all Americans. That is something that white Americans…should also be proud of and embrace that story. We cannot deny our past. And if you believe that 1776 matters, if you believe that our Constitution still matters, then you also have to understand that the legacy of slavery still matters and you can’t pick and choose what parts of history we think are important and which ones aren’t.”
Eventually, the Times hopes to bring this point of view into American classrooms.
“We will be sending some of our writers on multi-city tours to talk to students,” said Hannah-Jones. “And we will be sending copies of the magazine to high schools and colleges. Because to us, this project really takes wing when young people are able to read this and understand the way that slavery has shaped their country’s history.”
The Conservative Response
Critics see the 1619 Project as a blatant attack on President Trump – especially in light of a leaked transcript that revealed the paper’s executive director, Dean Baquet, talking about the project as a replacement for the paper’s focus on the Trump-Russia narrative.
In a recent meeting, Baquet spoke to his colleagues about his “vision” to make race the central theme of the paper’s coverage for the last two year’s of President Trump’s term.
“We built our newsroom to cover one story,” he said, referring to the Trump-Russia narrative. “Now, we have to regroup…and shift resources and emphasis to take on a different story.”
That story is race – about how everything in America came from the slave trade and how Trump is a racist.
“Race in the next year…is going to be a huge part of the American story,” continued Baquet. “And I mean, race in terms not only of African Americans and their relationship with Donald Trump, but Latinos and immigration.”
On Sunday, GOP Senator Ted Cruz (TX) accused the Times of completely abandoning journalism.
“There was a time when journalists covered ‘news.’ The NYT has given up on even pretending anymore. Today, they are Pravda, a propaganda outlet by liberals, for liberals,” tweeted Cruz.
“The NY Times 1619 Project should make its slogan ‘All the Propaganda we want to brainwash you with,'” added former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
President Trump took his criticism one step further, describing the Times as “an evil propaganda machine for the Democrat Party.”
Author’s Note: The accomplishments of black Americans are certainly important in the history of this country, but the claim that the US was founded in 1619 and not 1776 is hard to swallow.
The way I see it, the 1619 Project is a massive propaganda effort designed to defeat Trump in the upcoming election.
If the project fails, it will destroy the Times’s reputation for good. If it succeeds, it will teach our next generation that race is the most important thing in our society and in so doing will inflame racial tensions for years to come.