Long overdue or divisive & futile? NYT’s 1619 Project on slavery in America splits readers
A new initiative from the New York Times examining the history of slavery in the US has been met with applause and criticism online. Some say the project is “long overdue” while others accuse the paper of “rewriting” history.
The 1619 Project was conceived as a way to observe the “400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery” and, in the Times’ words, to “reframe our country’s history” by placing the stories of slaves at the forefront.
The year 1619 was chosen because it was in August of that year when the first ship carrying enslaved Africans docked at a port in Virginia, still an English colony at the time.
Many on the left were quick to celebrate the newspaper’s decision, saying it had been a long time coming and was a “truly inspiring achievement.”
The long overdue telling of African American history in the NYT, and the depth, power, scholarship & excellence of that telling by largely African American writers in the #1619 project is a monumental achievement that uplifts us all. Full stop. (My God, people. Please).
— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) August 16, 2019
I want all the cheers and accolades to go to the #1619Project. Getting such an ambitious and unflinching project approved is a truly inspiring achievement. It is much needed and long overdue.
But make no mistake y’all. This is about to be traumatic af.
— Marco Rogers (@polotek) August 18, 2019
“Americans have worked long and hard to distort and even erase the history of American slavery from our collective memory,” tweeted historian Kevin Levin, who said the project had the ability to “undercut and challenge” some of the “deepest beliefs among the general public about who we are as Americans.”
But some were less impressed by the Times’ anti-racism efforts.
Journalist Benjamin Weingarten tweeted that the true purpose of the project was to “delegitimize America” and “further divide and demoralize its citizenry.”
Conservative radio host Erick Erikson dismissed the project, arguing that if the Times is correct and the US is “tainted by racism since the 1600s” in every way, then it would stand to reason that the US itself is illegitimate. That would also mean “the constitution is illegitimate, and revolution is the answer,” he quipped.
It’s a rewriting of American history to suit a leftist victimhood narrative.
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 19, 2019
Conservative editor Ian Miles Cheong said it amounted to a “rewriting of American history to suit a leftist victimhood narrative.”
The project comes after a recording was leaked to Slate of the New York Times editor Dean Baquet admitting at a town hall-style staff meeting that the paper felt “flat-footed” after the Russiagate story fizzled out. Baquet said the newspaper had decided to switch its focus to Trump’s alleged racism instead.
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