The New York Times is the architect of Project 1619, a historical review in which the events that took place during the founding of the United States are rethought.
The initiative emphasizes the role of slavery and the role of people of African descent in explaining the events that were triggered during the American Revolution to shape the nation.
However, in the eyes of various American history scholars and academics dedicated to the subject, the project lacks substance and veracity.
One of them is Gordon Wood, an American historian who has been recognized for his work on the early history of the United States, especially for his knowledge of the American Revolution.
In an interview with the World Socialist website, he stated that while he is someone who is considered an authority on the subject, no one ever approached him to talk about the development of the project.
“Yes, no one ever approached me. None of the leading scholars of the whole period from the Revolution to the Civil War, as far I know, have been consulted,” Wood said.
Civil War historian Jim McPherson, in an interview with the World Socialist website in mid-November, similarly expressed his anguish over The New York Times’ reluctant attitude of contacting expert historians to collaborate in the construction of the 1619 project.
On the one hand, Wood said he saw the first essay by author Nikole Hannah-Jones, who argues that the Revolution was a product of Americans’ desire to save slaves: “She claims the British were on the warpath against the slave trade and slavery and that rebellion was the only hope for American slavery.”
“This made the American Revolution out to be like the Civil War, where the South seceded to save and protect slavery, and that the Americans 70 years earlier revolted to protect their institution of slavery. I just couldn’t believe this,” Wood added.
“One of the things that I have emphasized in my writing is how many Southerners and Northerners in 1776 thought slavery was on its last legs and that it would naturally die away,” Wood said.
According to Western Journal columnist C. Douglas Golden said that the project is also being used as a curriculum in public schools. According to The Daily Caller, some Chicago study centers have already begun to implement it in their curricula.
Regarding the treatment of the events detailed in the initiative, McPherson said, “I’d say that, almost from the outset, I was disturbed by what seemed like a very unbalanced, one-sided account, which lacked context and perspective on the complexity of slavery, which was clearly, obviously, not an exclusively American institution, but existed throughout history …”
“So I read a few of the essays and skimmed the rest, but didn’t pursue much more about it because it seemed to me that I wasn’t learning very much new. And I was a little bit unhappy with the idea that people who did not have a good knowledge of the subject would be influenced by this and would then have a biased or narrow view,” McPherson added.
As to the author’s perspective, McPherson noted: “She argues that racism is the central theme of American history. It is certainly part of the history. But again, I think it lacks context, lacks perspective on the entire course of slavery and how slavery began and how slavery in the United States was hardly unique.”
“And racial convictions, or ‘anti-other’ convictions, have been central to many societies. (…) But the idea that racism is a permanent condition, well that’s just not true. And it also doesn’t account for the countervailing tendencies in American history as well,” McPherson added.