The 1619 Project is Nonsense, but not Benign

The 1619 Project published in the New York Times Magazine pretends to authenticity but gives history a bad name.  It shows none of the attributes and scholarship of history.  It is of a kind with bad science, which is to say, it is a fraud upon history.  The author, Nikole Hannah-Jones, is a journalist, and based on her portion of the writing in the 1619 Project, it reports, but lacks truth. This project needs a historian:  History is explaining, resolving, and opinionating, if necessary, with consideration of the whys and wherefores before concluding.  Well-written history truthfully informs.  This lead-essay for the whole project has not set a high standard for what the remainder of the project writing will present.  It contains unworthy political conclusions, sweeping statements, skips over huge/relevant events and omits many important persons whose voices are important.  Documented events contradict her assertions (not opinions).  Her work is not compelling unless you favor loudness as compelling; even for the cancel culture, which is the only audience that will be attracted to the project.  I do not make the above observations myself; my conclusions are from a dozen essays by authentic historians commenting in areas of their expertise.  Three examples from different commentaries are, I believe, capable of conveying the whole of the projects outlook.  

“Abraham Lincoln is excoriated for insufficient speed emancipating all slaves at once.  He would eventually be murdered by a white supremacist in 1865 after calling for black voting rights; this was the man whom Frederick Douglass described as “emphatically the black man’s president.”

As [Sean] Wilentz told The Atlantic’sAdam Serwer, “To teach children that the American Revolution was fought in part to secure slavery would be giving a fundamental misunderstanding not only of what the American Revolution was all about but what America stood for and has stood for since the Founding. Anti-slavery ideology was a very new thing in the world in the 18th century . . . there was more anti-slavery activity in the colonies than in Britain.” 

“The breadth of 400 years and 300 million people cannot be compressed into single-size interpretations; yet, the 1619 Project asserts that every aspect of American life has only one lens for viewing, that of slavery and its fall-out.” For example by the following:  “America Wasn’t a Democracy until Black Americans Made It One,”  “American Capitalism Is Brutal. You Can Trace that to the Plantation,”  In some cases, history is reduced to metaphor: “How Segregation Caused Your Traffic Jam.”

The New York Times intends to make the 1619 Project part of public school curriculums!

I admit to be in awe of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of 1787.  The two documents’ complementarity is an extension of genius among the founders.  It is the perfect Constitution to provide principled law for thirteen states whose people were diverse to the extreme, but nevertheless to create a union. Among each of the States, independently, is where local regulations directly affecting the people are legislated.  The Constitution reserves this civil law to the States.  The federal government is carefully limited to specific subjects necessary for producing a unified nation (only).  The reasons it has not always seemed to be coming out that way is because little-by-little power has been corruptly transferred from States to the federal government.  Today we are at the extreme edge of that corruption.  I weep at the prospects and see the 1619 Project as an attempt to advance more corruption to the point of collapse of the union. We are witnessing today what collapse will look like for the future.  The weakest segment of the people are producing riots and cancelling civil institutions, the governors of many states are looking the other way, as are the media. America’s abundant freedoms do not necessitate such destruction.  

Today, America is closer to duplicating the worst excesses of the French Revolution of 1789 than ever before.  What is different today for this American example is that the ability to communicate has extended power to mob leaders to call upon rioters in “real time” as in military operations.  Then the media becomes complicit in its approving coverage of the spectacle.  The founders recognized putting all power in the hands of the people had no precedent in history, but at that particular time, nearly everyone beyond adolescence was not only literate, but capable of exercising reason – this was the age of reason and The Enlightenment.  John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government was quoted in almost every newspaper somewhere, and in some context of current political affairs. The founders and the people were of one mind on civil liberties, including equality of all mankind, everywhere.  A majority of the people freely exercised their religious rights, but not as in Europe where exercise of religion was combative. Religion helped to produce a more moderate civil attitude.  Nevertheless, The Declaration of Independencestates, “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Today’s population is less literate than any previous generations since perhaps the 1950s, and more susceptible to influence by their age-group peers through social media. Test scores show twenty percent of the population is illiterate.  The public schools are still in decline and there is little sign of turnaround.                                                                             July 30, 2020