From today’s Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley addresses the 1619 Project in A Bid To Review the New York Times’s Bad History. Many of the top historians on America founding find the 1619 Project riddled with gross inaccuracies and ignores the reality that far from institutionalizing slavery for economic benefit, the Declaration and the Constitution provided the intellectual and ideological tools to dismantle the institution. Slavery existed for thousands of years and the American experience is more about ending it than perpetuating it. Racism is a real part of the American experience that should be addressed honestly and not abused as a cudgel to assert 20th century political objectives in the age of identity politics. We can face our dark periods without insisting that those days are our single statement of American identity.
Besides the efforts of noted and respected historians such as Gordon Wood to correct the record a new effort, The 1776 Project, had formed a site to correct the travesty of the New York Times. The 1776 Project focuses on the success of American Blacks to rise from the ashes of slavery and racism, rather than use this period of oppression to sustain modern identity politics.
Mr. Woodson believes his project will correct a false and fatalistic narrative and provide an optimistic path forward for the black underclass. The Times’s “negative message is dangerous to the future because it discourages blacks” from trying, and “nothing is more lethal than a good excuse for failing.”
None of this is to play down numerous errors and omissions of the “1619 Project.” The essays contend, for example, that slavery produced “dizzying profits” and “helped turn a poor, fledgling nation into a financial colossus.” But as the historian Wilfred McClay explained in Commentary magazine in October, scholars have blasted such claims are “demonstrably wrong” and based on “elementary accounting errors, incorrectly double- and triple-counting intermediate transaction costs in a way that greatly inflates the final figure.”
And to Ms. Hannah-Jones’s assertion that “for the most part, black Americans fought back alone,” the historian James McPherson offered this: “From the Quakers in the 18th century, on through the abolitionists in the antebellum, to the radical Republicans in the Civil War and Reconstruction, to the NAACP which was an interracial organization founded in 1909, down through the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, there have been a lot of whites who have fought against slavery and racial discrimination, and against racism. Almost from the beginning of American history that’s been true. And that’s what’s missing from this perspective.”
The “1619 Project” is being adopted as part of the curriculum in thousands of classrooms across the country. The political left is already in the process of turning our K-12 schools into social-justice boot camps, and this will expedite that effort. Properly understood, the “1619 Project” isn’t about black history. It’s about today’s racial disparities. It’s about applying current ideologies to past events, in the continuing attempt to blame the past actions of whites for the current problems of blacks. Mr. Woodson understands that this is not only dishonest but damaging. Why doesn’t the New York Times?