The entire nation should be gravely concerned as the New York Times’s “1619 Project” worms its way into American schools, both public and private.
The National Association of Scholars is one of the few organizations trying to support real scholarship in the academy. The NAS sharply criticized The 1619 Project. As they explain, “This project presents a historical re-telling of the American story, one that places slavery as the essential element on which all of American history and progress ought to be centered. 1619 makes the case for a history rooted solely in the idea that America is a racist nation, founded on racist ideals and propped up by racist institutions and individuals.”
The two discussants were Dr. Robert Woodson and Dr. Wilfred McClay. Dr. Woodson is the founder and President of the Woodson Center, which is constructing an online competitor to 1619, “1776 Unites.” Dr. McClay is a Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma and author of Land of Hope.
Dr. McClay opened the discussion. ”1619 argues for a reframing of American History. It is a kind of thought experiment, in a way, but it is one that has, obviously, longer range objectives.” He argues that 1619 is “simple-minded” in that it argues that slavery is a part of America’s DNA, and cannot, therefore, be expunged.
Dr. Woodson elaborates on Dr. McClay’s point. He describes a process that began at Columbia University during the sixties. Sociologists and political activists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven were on the faculty of Columbia University. According to Dr. Woodson, they “hijacked” the Civil Rights movement by devising a stratagem to convince African-American to enroll in the welfare programs then being promoted by President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” According to Dr. Woodson, “Their theory was that if you can separate work from income, it would make fathers redundant, and, therefore … there would be a disintegration of the nuclear family, and as a consequence, all of these pathologies would follow.” One of the pathologies, he said, is to falsely attribute the problems of today to “the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow,”
Both professors marveled at the rapidity with which many school systems adopted this product of The New York Times.
The Importance of Context
Both discussants elaborated on the need for historical context and criticized The 1619 Project for both ignoring the accurate context of events and, on occasion, actually creating false contexts.
The first manufactured context is that The 1619 Project presents slavery as uniquely American. Dr. McClay points out that slavery was a part of many, perhaps all, of the world’s early civilizations. It was nearly universal throughout history and continues today. He specifically noted that a quarter of the population of Mauritania – an “Islamic Republic” in Northern Africa – is enslaved. He quipped, “I wish the New York Times would show more interest in that.”
Another contextual error of The 1619 Project is that it ignores the successes of African-Americans during the era of segregation. Dr. Woodson cites factors that The 1619 Project omits. Before 1960, most African-American families were traditional nuclear families, with out-of-wedlock birth rates that were minuscule compared to today. In turn, this factor led to entrepreneurship, self-sacrifice in the interests of children, and stable communities that included doctors, lawyers, stores, schools, and, especially, churches.
Further, leaving out that context paints African-Americans as helpless victims, creating a new kind of slavery. Dr. Woodson goes further, presenting The 1619 Project as “almost an expression of white supremacy.”
The Future of History
The 1619 Project was not just a “trial balloon” to determine the public reaction to its lies and deceits. It is the next step in a carefully crafted and deliberate propaganda campaign designed to destroy American culture. These people know the power of commonly accepted ideas.
However, the academic anarchists have been working at this a long time. They have been carefully weaving their ideas into teacher education materials and student textbooks for at least fifty years. Perhaps the best-known example is the leftist effort to promote the horribly slanted A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
Professors McClay and Woodson are working toward a more accurate view of American History. It is an admirable effort.
That being said, adjusting academic perspectives is not sufficient. This is not just an academic problem; it is a moral issue as well.
The 1619 Project presents students with a false and fatalistic Marxist narrative of the “oppressors” and “the oppressed.” White people are the oppressors. They were born into that role and cannot escape it. Even the most scrupulous control of thoughts and actions is not enough. All other groups are the oppressed. No matter how hard they try, they will always be oppressed. The only escape is a revolution to overthrow the system.
The leftist’s world view leaves no place for God, virtue or free will. Like everywhere else on the leftist spectrum, there is no tolerance for moral law, natural law or any other set of beliefs that do not conform to their determinist creed.
When Howard Zinn’s book debuted in 1980, most traditionalists ignored it. That book went on to become extremely influential because the leftists promoted it. God-fearing Americans cannot afford to make that mistake with The 1619 Project.
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