The 1619 Project was published last year by the New York Times to “reframe” American history by placing slavery at its central driving core.
However, the deeply flawed project is making history in another context – it is bringing together opponents from the right and left who contend the project was a deliberate mischaracterization of American history.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative group that promotes traditional American values, and the International Committee of World Socialists, which fights for economic equality of the working class, are pushing back against a free The 1619 Project curriculum being distributed by the NYT and The Pulitzer Center to schools around the country.
(Yes, despite central gaping errors and significant retrenchment by the NYT, both public and in secret, the series won a Pulitzer Prize, heretofore a crowning achievement in journalism.)
In the forward of a new book, David North, chair of the Socialist Party in the U.S., calls The 1619 Project “unprincipled,” “a grotesque distortion” and “a combination of shoddy journalism, careless and dishonest research, and a false, politically-motivated narrative.”
North says the project undermines the “unity of the broad mass of Americans in their common struggle against conditions of social inequality and exploitation.”
According to North, The 1619 Project reflects the “financialization” of the NYT during the past decade and “its central role in the formulation and aggressive marketing of the policies of the Democratic Party.”
He called the NYT and the Democratic Party tools of the “capitalist class,” which benefits by encouraging social polarization to thwart a growing interest in and support for socialism as wealth inequality widens.
The book, which is edited by North and Tom Mackannan, is The New York Times’ 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History” and contains interviews from eminent U.S. historians, including James McPherson, James Oakes, Gordon Wood, Richard Carwardine, Victoria Bynum, and Clayborne Carson.
North says the NYT developed The 1619 Project to provide Democrats “with a historical narrative that legitimized its efforts to develop an electoral constituency based on the promotion of racial politics.” In particular, North writes, the NYT series was part of the party’s “2020 electoral strategy.”
North writes the Times erected a “color barrier” in the series by deliberately eschewing two decades of historical research by white scholars. North says there is no evidence that Nikole Hannah-Jones, the series editor, study of history “extended beyond the reading of a single book” written in the early 1960s by the late black nationalist, Lerone Bennett, Jr.
“This only goes to prove that the racialist viewpoint is rooted not in the racial identity of the author, but rather, in his or her class position and ideological orientation,” write North.
Another book aimed at debunking The 1619 Project was released last month by Peter Wood, chair of the National Association of Scholars. In 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, Wood notes the 20 blacks who arrived on American soil in 1619 had been captured by pirates. Like many poor whites, he said, they became indentured servants, worked for and gained their freedom. He says the year 1620 is more significant than 1619 because that is the year that Puritans fleeing religious prosecution in England signed the Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of the Plymouth colony.
Neither North nor Wood deny or underestimate the evil of slavery in America but they say The 1619 Project mischaracterizes slavery’s role, wallows in identity politics and perpetual race victimization and ignores the fact that whites struggled alongside blacks to end the terrible institution.
Where the Heritage Foundation and Socialists seem to converge is in defense of the idea that America’s founding represented a truly revolutionary new idea in the annals of humanity – that all men are created equal.
North notes that Marx wrote President Abraham Lincoln in 1985 that it was in the American Revolution that “the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the Eighteenth century.”
North writes the NYT “grotesque distortion” of history leaves “no place for the working class or for the class struggle, which has been the dominant factor in American social history for the past 150 years, and in which African-American workers have fought heroically alongside their white brothers and sisters.”
Undergirding The 1619 Project, North says, is the teaching of “critical race theory” in American Universities. In this theory, racial identity replaces social class and related economic processes in the analysis of societal inequality. He said the latest rage on college campuses is “Whiteness” theory, which denies historical progress, rejects objective truth, and “interpret[s] all events and facets of culture through the prism of alleged racial self-interest.”