The 1619 Project: a Dangerous and Misleading Rewriting of History

In 1790 the Irish statesmen and philosopher Edmund Burke wrote that “to make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely.” History has proven Burke right. After more than two centuries of enhancing and nurturing capitalism, freedom of thought, equality of opportunity and freedom of enterprise there are very few people who want to escape the United States. The same can be said for other advanced countries, that have prospered under capitalism and democracy.

The Unbeatable Spirit of America

Throughout the centuries, Americans have been imbued with a deep sense of patriotism and capitalism, entrepreneurship and risk-taking, pride for their history and gratefulness for their founding fathers. It is this love for their country that pushes them to succeed, that encourages them to freely enlist in wars waged in far away lands. It cannot be explained otherwise, the rally in defense of their country of thousands and thousands of young men and women after 9/11, for example. It is hard to find other explanations for the election of Donald Trump as President.

It is impossible to find further reasons for the American citizens’ disdain for totalitarian communism and the election of Ronald Reagan as the defender of the shining city atop the hill in the 1980s. Whenever the ideals of freedom have been threatened, Americans have made bold choices. The United States has survived this long and has indeed prospered precisely due to these elements.

The 1619 Project: an Activist Screed Against the United States

Enter the 1619 Project, an endeavor that attempts to dismantle the United States conceptually as an inherently immoral enterprise. The New York Times initiated the 1619 project last year to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of 20 African slaves in America via editor Nikole Hannah-Jones. Its aim is to “reframe the country’s history” and replace the year 1776, the founding date of the United States, with 1619. Hannah-Jones’ open essay starts with the premise that the real reason for the American Revolution was to preserve slavery. The Project consists of a range of essays, podcasts and soon even a book that rewrite several aspects of American history, by presenting the US as a nation that has racism at its core and slavery as its main foundational pillar. The author recently received the Pulitzer Prize for her work and the project’s materials have been included in thousands of school curricula across the nation.

The Many Inaccuracies and Distortions of the 1619 Project

The Project is full of historical inaccuracies, according to the major part of the historians and experts. Pulitzer-Prize winning historian and expert of the American Revolution Gordon Wood has described it as “wrong in so many ways”. The dean of Civil War historians and a Pulitzer prize winner have both described the project as an “unbalanced, one-sided account that left most of the history out,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Even in those parts that facts are true, the authors spin them in a way to suit their agenda, by removing the context and important elements. Leslie M. Harris, a history professor at Northwesters University and an expert in the history of slavery, has declared that she was consulted on the project and says she warned the authors not to publish an inaccurate representation of events.

Historian Reveals How Her Knowledge Was Overlooked Because it Didn’t Fit Project Narrative

As Politico reports, Harris stated that “Because I am an historian of African-American life and slavery, in New York, specifically, and the pre-Civil War era more generally, [Nikole Hannah-Jones] wanted me to verify some statements for the project. At one point, she sent me this assertion:

“One critical reason that the colonists declared their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery in the colonies, which had produced tremendous wealth. At the time there were growing calls to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, which would have badly damaged the economies of colonies in both North and South.”

I vigorously disputed the claim. Although slavery was certainly an issue in the American Revolution, the protection of slavery was not one of the main reasons the 13 Colonies went to war. Despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about the American Revolution anyway, in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay. Both sets of inaccuracies worried me, but the Revolutionary War statement made me especially anxious.”

The historian Harris can hardly be called a right wing or conservative sympathizers. She acknowledges the need for revisions in history, after all. Yet, even she admits that Hannah-Jones had gone too far in trying to smear the American Revolution, which a plethora of historians agree was chiefly driven by the desire for freedom and independence. It is one of the few, if not the only revolution to have succeeded precisely due to the purity of its cause and the righteousness of its leaders. The readers of this article may know that George Washington was given the opportunity to become King after the war, and he refused it, returning instead to his private life.

The Times Rejects Requests for Corrections to the Project

Secondly, five professors from Princeton university, Brown University, City University of New York and Texas State University wrote a letter to the New York Times to issue corrections to the various essays related to the Project. The Times did not accept their request. They and other historians agree that the Revolution not only was not caused by a desire to keep slavery, but actually became a disruptive factor to slavery by arming black people to fight against the British. In fact, it were the actions of the British military that turned southern on the side of the Americans.

Furthermore, in the North, the freedom of the slaves happened after the war was over, although gradually. It was white Americans that fought and pushed for the end of slavery. Yet, the project and most of the left completely ignores such a fact. Hannah-Jones dismissed her critics and respected historians as “old, white male historians”. For someone who claims to be anti-racist, she sure seems to speak with racist and divisive words.

The Anti-Capitalist Underpinnings of the 1619 Project

Thirdly, the Project aims to discredit capitalism as a phenomenon of slavery and racism. Clearly, the authors of the project have never heard of George Fitzhugh, an American social theorist of the 1800s, who described slavery as a beautiful example of communism. Nevertheless, this aspect of the 1619 project has been debunked as well. Allen C. Guelzo, a senior research scholar at Princeton University, in an article for the Wall Street Journal shows the lies of the project regarding capitalism. The project writes that “slaves were whipped and tortured into clearing fields, planting and harvesting crops whose yields increased. Desmond, one of the authors, writes that yields increased by 400% over the 60 years before the Civil War. Every aspect of the plantation was ruthlessly rationalized to enhance profits, via vertical reporting systems, double-entry record-keeping and precise quantification. These “management techniques” became a model for a union-busting capitalism of poverty wages, gig jobs and normalized insecurity. Slavery’s violence was neither arbitrary nor gratuitous, but instead rational, capitalistic.”

Yet, according to Guelzo the numbers do not add up. New York in the north was far more capitalistic and had far more banks than the entire Confederacy region. Cotton, he explains, was the biggest commodity exported, but as a percentage of total exports and not total production. Moreover, he cites historian Erin Mauldin, regarding the chaotic and sloppy Southern agriculture before Civil War. Even railroads were built with public funds and not as a result of private investments. The increases in production of cotton, according to several historians were a result of the introduction of superior cotton varieties, which increased profitability. The point Guelzo makes is that historical facts show that what the South had was far from capitalism. Capitalism has freedom in its fundamentals. It cannot work if there is no freedom. If anything, capitalism hastened the abolishment of slavery.

Going After Abraham Lincoln

As if the attack on the founding of the US was not enough, the 1619 Project goes on to attack Abraham Lincoln, the Republican President who put an end to slavery and fought a civil war to do so. There is a conspicuous absence in the report of noting that the entire Democratic Party was against the abolition of slavery and tried to be kind to blacks only when they gained the right to vote.

Yet the target is instead the Republican President who ended slavery, a man Hannah-Jones describes as a “garden-variety racist”.  If Hannah-Jones and the Times had studied history and done their research, they would know that Lincoln’s anti-slavery inclinations were obvious. Later in its history, the US had the first widespread anti-slavery movement in the world. She takes one occurrence and makes her deductions based on that. In August 1862, Lincoln invited a committee of black men and the media to the White House and read to them a statement urging the black community to leave the United States and create a colony outside the US, which would be bought by the US Congress for them, once they were freed.

Many historians argue that it was a tactic on Lincoln’s part. The President did not have the full backing of Congress so he presented this idea to them as a bargaining chip to get support for abolishing slavery. After the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln discarded the plan and a year and a half later he was calling for black voting rights.

To fully counter the fallacy of the 1619 project it is enough to quote Lincoln himself: “I am naturally anti-slavery”. “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel,” or to quote Frederick Douglass who considered Lincoln “the colored man’s president”. Too bad that the ones trying to rewrite history are those that were on the wrong side of it. Perhaps, this is a reflection of the inner shame the left must feel for backing slavery for hundreds of years, and for using the black people decades later.

The Harmful Claims of the Project Don’t Belong in American Schools

While the examples I brought are more than enough to debunk the entire projects, there are many more inaccuracies and distortions in the report according to reputable historians. However, it is important to note that this project has been implemented as part of the curriculum in the education system, even though it has been proven false. Nobody in the mainstream media mentions its lies, nor its harmful claims which further divide society.

Schools have been using it despite scholar warning against it. This is meant precisely for the young, for those who are still in their formative years. That is the real objective and danger. They are using a fallacious version of history to indoctrinate children. The aim is not to change anybody’s mind now and align it to their viewpoint but indoctrinate those who will become the citizens of tomorrow.

If children are taught that their country is evil, unfair and racist and if they are indoctrinated with the notion that capitalism is the source of that evil, through strongly biased versions of history such as this, then they will stop loving their country. They will be taught that the only solution is to change America. Hannah-Jones has herself stated that her choice for a model country, with the highest levels of equality is the communist country of Cuba.

Communism Has a High Cost

In an article on the Federalist, Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow in Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy, mentions Herbert Marcuse. He was a German American philosopher and sociologist who fled Hitler’s Germany and arrived in the US. Marcuse observed that America was filled with happy consumers. Capitalism was too good and that prevented revolts. He, as well as the authors of the 1619 Project understood that to make a revolution, you have to convince people and especially the children and the young adults that the country they are living in is terrible. All attachments with the past, with tradition and family must be destroyed, according to them, to give rise to a new country shaped in their vision.

There is no doubt that the vision of those behind the 1619 Project is communistic. The problem is that with communism there are many inevitable side effects we can observe throughout history, especially censorship, famine, despair and violence. We are already seeing this in the US, with big tech censoring conservatives, the cancel culture movement and the far-left fully conquering the Democratic party and choosing a figurehead as their Party’s nominee for President in order to push through a far-left agenda.

The 1776 Project

Luckily, there has been some pushback from conservatives, with the 1776 Project, and other similar initiatives that aim to defend the founding of America and its values and principles. It is a fatalistic way of presenting history by telling people of color they were born in a racist country, with racist history and racism as its core value and thus they have no hope of succeeding in this terrible capitalistic world. This is simply not true and re-victimizes people of color. Conservatives are standing against this with the 1776 Project.

American slavery ended around 150 years ago. Still, everyone talks about it. If the situation is so bad now, why is no one talking about that, instead of focusing on what happened a century ago? Why have two million African immigrants chosen to immigrate to the United States in the last 50 years if it is systemically racist? Nobody at the New York Times or in the left and mainstream media will answer that, because it exposes their rhetoric as hollow and part of an ulterior agenda.

Finding Common Ground and Unity

What America and the world need is finding common ground, uniting around the values that everybody shares, such as family, community, tradition, and finding the way to go forward through mutual empowerment. This can include improvement of capitalism and strong and objective education without indoctrination. We should disagree with each other. It is alright to do so and even fundamental for democratic society to move forward. But declaring a whole race as racist, a whole gender as exist and a whole country as inherently malicious stokes the flames of divisions and betrays a lack of desire to move forward and find unity.

If the United States falls to radicalism and neo-Marxism erasing its culture and history, then we are in for some very difficult years ahead of us. It is in Europe’s favor and honor to stand by the US as it deals with radicals. As we have seen, Europe is not immune to what ails America. With all his faults, Trump still appears to be the only barrier that can stop this madness. Let us hope he proves successful.