The intellectual mendacity of the New York Times and its 1619 Project

Yesterday I criticized the University of Chicago’s English Department for repeatedly changing their “Faculty Statement of 2020” without ever telling readers that they’d done so. That’s not a huge misstep, though it’s unethical and should not have been done by—of all organizations—a Department of English.

But the New York Times has been far more unethical in a simiular way: changing what it said about the 1619 Project’s aims without letting the readers know.  It also does other dubious things, like employing fact-checkers whose fact-checks are ignored, as well as ignoring correct criticisms from historians on all sides of the political spectrum. And its dug in its heels when historians offer corrections that should have been made.

An example of historical sleaziness is the Project’s assertion that the Revolutionary War in America was fought because the colonists wanted to ensure the continuation of slavery in their new country. The evidence for this is virtually nonexistent, but Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Project, hasn’t backed off much. As The Atlantic notes,

Hannah-Jones hasn’t budged from her conviction that slavery helped fuel the Revolution. “I do still back up that claim,” she told me last week—before Silverstein’s rebuttal was published—although she says she phrased it too strongly in her essay, in a way that might mislead readers into thinking that support for slavery was universal. “I think someone reading that would assume that this was the case: all 13 colonies and most people involved. And I accept that criticism, for sure.” She said that as the 1619 Project is expanded into a history curriculum and published in book form, the text will be changed to make sure claims are properly contextualized.

Well, maybe you can find a handful of revolutionaries motivated this way, but historians have claimed that, among all other motivations, keeping slavery as a going concern was trivial. She did make the change (or so I think; I haven’t checked.) Other historical are detailed in the article just below.

In a new article in Quillette (click on screenshot), Philip Magness (who has written a critical book on the 1619 Project) finds one critical assertion of the original 1619 Project that’s gone down the “memory hole” (you’ll remember that term from Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which Winston Smith’s job was to make history disappear). Click to read:

The issue is when America was founded. From the start Hannah-Jones claimed it was 1619, when the first ship containing 20-odd slaves arrived in America.  She asserted this repeatedly:

For several months after the 1619 Project first launched, its creator and organizer Nikole Hannah-Jones doubled down on the claim. “I argue that 1619 is our true founding,” she tweeted the week after the project launched. “Also, look at the banner pic in my profile”—a reference to the graphic of the date 1776 crossed out with a line. It’s a claim she repeated many times over.

The original version:

Hannah-Jones’s present Twitter header (click on screenshot). If she’s not replacing the “founding date” with the 1619 date, I don’t know what that means:

Throughout the controversy, the line about the year 1619 being “our true founding” continued to haunt the Times. This criticism did not aim to denigrate the project’s titular date or the associated events in the history of slavery. Rather, the passage came to symbolize the Times’s blurring of historical analysis with editorial hyperbole. The announced intention of reframing the country’s origin date struck many readers across the political spectrum as an implicit repudiation of the American revolution and its underlying principles.

Rather than address this controversy directly, the Times—it now appears—decided to send it down the memory hole—the euphemized term for selectively editing inconvenient passages out of old newspaper reports in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. Without announcement or correction, the newspaper quietly edited out the offending passage such that it now reads:

Magness continues, noting not that Hannah-Jones didn’t just make a sneaky correction, but claimed that she never said that 1619 was the founding date of America. And that’s simply a lie.

Discovery of this edit came about earlier this week when Nikole Hannah-Jones went on CNN to deny that she had ever sought to displace 1776 with a new founding date of 1619. She repeated the point in a now-deleted tweet: “The #1619Project does not argue that 1619 was our true founding. We know this nation marks its founding at 1776.” It was not the first time that Hannah-Jones had tried to alter her self-depiction of the project’s aims on account of the controversial line. She attempted a similar revision a few months ago during an online spat with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

Here’s that tweet, which of course somebody saved:

The piece continues:

But this time the brazen rewriting of her own arguments proved too much. Hannah-Jones’s readers scoured her own Twitter feed and public statements over the previous year, unearthing multiple instances where she had in fact announced an intention to displace 1776 with 1619.

The foremost piece of evidence against Hannah-Jones’s spin, of course, came from the opening passage of from the Times’s own website where it originally announced its aim “to reframe the country’s history” around the year “1619 as our true founding.” When readers returned to that website to cite the line however, they discovered to their surprise that it was no longer there.

The Times quietly dropped the offending passage at some point during the intervening year, although multiple screencaps of the original exist. The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine suggests the alteration came around late December 2019, when the 1619 Project was facing an onslaught of criticism over this exact point from several distinguished historians of the American founding.

A similar change was made in the print edition for schools, which originally contained the sentence “America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began.” That sentence was simply excised.

Now some will argue that this is a trivial change, and to that I’d say: “Are you kidding? July 4, 1776 is an iconic date in American history, and the NYT wants to change it to August 20, 1619, so that the founding of America coincides with the arrival of the first slaves.”

Others will say, “Well, so what? It’s just a minor emendation, and the Times made the change.” The problem with this is that it’s standard for a paper to note when a column or article has been changed, usually with an addendum on the page. This hasn’t been done. Like George Orwell’s Winston Smith, the paper has simply put its previous assertion (and not a trivial one) down the Big Memory Hole. It’s trying to hide its misstatements rather than admit to them. Worse, Hannah-Jones simply denied what she previously said.

Were I to make such a big claim on this site, and then retract it, I’d admit it—either with an emendation or in a separate post. That the NYT cannot abide by even these minimal standards of journalism makes me realize even more that the paper is allowing its ideological agenda seep into its news. And that agenda has also infused the secondary-school materials as well, for the Project was always intended to instill into American children the Times’s view of history. The problem, though,  is that the 1619 Project is not a work of history, but a work of journalism heavily infused with Critical Race Theory.

I’ll finish by saying this: I agree that the aims of the 1619 Project are admirable: to teach children about the horrors of slavery and of the subsequent bigotry and oppression suffered by African-Americans. And it’s very useful to highlight where and how the residuum of slavery, instantiated in current bigotry, still infuses America. But the Times has botched this project big time. If you can’t trust them on details like the above, can you trust the view of history purveyed to kids in school?

79 Comments

  1. Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “But the Times has botched this project big time. If you can’t trust them on details like the above, can you trust the view of history purveyed to kids in school?”

    It’s worse than that. The Times won’t have much to do with the implementation of the 1619 project within schools. The Woke will have control of it and it will happen in a forums that are not as public as the NYT and its readers. Of course, we have Trump on our side for this battle. That should help a lot. /sarcasm.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      Trump’s been pushing his “1776 Commission” that will counter the 1619 project by promoting a “patriotic education”. He said: “Our youth will be taught to love America with all of their heart and all of their soul.“

      • Posted September 22, 2020 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        I will sincerely oppose that one more than the 1619 project.

      • Posted September 22, 2020 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

        Right but, as many have pointed out, Trump and the feds have little control over curriculum, especially since most educators are liberals. I fear the Woke and its 1619 Project much more when it comes to education. It sounds like many efforts to insert it into teaching are already well underway, whereas Trump’s project will probably die as soon as attention is directed elsewhere or he leaves office.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      I saw that you mentioned this down thread.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    That John McWhorter discussion brought so much light to this kind of stuff. Piety and religion instead of problem solving. Combine with one part Kurt Andersen – Fantasyland – and as long as one believes something is true, that’s all that counts to them.

    Faith vs. Fact – the antidote.

    I don’t understand what makes the NYT compelling as K-12 educational resource authority – surely teachers are competent enough to know what modern materials to use. Meanwhile, slavery is alive and well elsewhere in the world, yet we know and do comparatively little about it.

    • Mike Mayer
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Schools of education are totally taken over by the woke, so I wouldn’t be so sure that teachers would know what materials to use.

  3. rickflick
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Paul Krugman in his column today claims the radical left has very little power, while the radical right is powerful and gaining in power. So, he kind of downplays wokeness as an issue, and sites the 1619 project as inoffensive. I can understand how he strikes this balance, but he neglects to examine how the issue is being used to boost tRump and his right wing nutjobs. It could push him over the top and present us with another 4 years of right wing awfulness. That’s the far bigger issue.

  4. Mike
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    I think all of these observations about journalistic integrity and (dis)honest editorial approaches at the NYT are correct. But the more I think about the Supreme Court power play that is unfolding in the Senate the better I think I understand why Ida Bae takes this “concede nothing” approach. She reasonably foresees that any concession on her part will be met with bad-faith responses from conservatives. This refusal by progressives to admit errors is aggravating to classical liberals like our host. But I think Ida Bae is talking past liberals and focused directly on conservatives and their bad-faith efforts to oppose progress (like addressing racism). I don’t agree with her reaction, but I guess that’s because I’m in the same classic Liberal camp as our host.

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes but a “concede nothing” approach really doesn’t work, especially in the fight against racism. What she might call institutional racism is really just ingrained racial attitudes. These are not changed by passing laws but by education and various other social nudges. By all means reform the police but there’s much more to a long-term solution. Getting mad at people and conceding nothing doesn’t change minds.

    • Mike
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      “Getting mad at people and conceding nothing doesn’t change minds.” Yes I agree. I find her approach understandable (or relatable as the kids say), but you’re right it is not effective.

  5. savage
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    The 1919 Project simply teaches a
    highly racialized history. Every person, every event is solely assessed by their attitude towards blacks.

    I suspect most tribes that ever existed have viewed the world like that. One could similarly assess every historical figure by whether they were an orthodox Catholic or what their attitude towards Jews was.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I am not sure that the aims of the 1619 Project are laudable. It’s not about teaching kids about slavery. Even when I was in school, there was no lack of content about slavery, and I am sure there is more now. The goal of the 1619 Project seems to be to argue that all America is about is racism, which is simply not true. (One must always pay attention to where people set the time frames for their historical arguments. Sixteen nineteen is chosen to make a point that would be different even if one were to choose 1607 [founding of Virginia].) To that extent it is just a part of the racist Anti-Racist agenda. On the other hand, I chuckle every time I see Jones’ twitter handle.

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      “Even when I was in school, there was no lack of content about slavery, and I am sure there is more now.”

      What I remember from school is that they taught slavery but not the racism behind it. It was pretty close to slavery as a lifestyle. There was an unconcealed attempt to make students feel good about their country’s history. If they touched on slavery and racism, they stuck to description not judgement.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      No lack of content about slavery? I can’t ride that boat either. I am the same age as PCC and grew up in the Midwest. American History drove over slavery kind of the same way it covered the American Indians. You know with the Indians, it just didn’t work out and they kind of got pushed out. Slaves were needed for growing tobacco and cotton. Then we had a big war and things changed. These issues were rolled pretty good back in the 50s and 60s.

      I have spoken out about my problems with 1619 and it is not good history. It is the usual conclusion between the far left and the far right with both being wrong and today it makes no sense. There are plenty of good historians out there telling us the much more proper stories. They back everything up with lots of notes and documentation. Just read some of the early works on Jefferson and then read some of the more current stuff and you see a big difference.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        I am sure many here could offer up a few good places to look and I will provide a couple. Joseph J. Ellis is a pretty fair historian of the colonial period with lots of books. More recently, American Dialogue, The Founders and Us, copyright 2018. Some very good stuff in here on Jefferson. If you only get a chance to read one book on the Constitution it could be, The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart, copyright 2007.

  7. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand what makes it the job of a newspaper to publish its own home-cooked materials for schools, while there are already materials for K-12 education by authors who presumably studied the subject for at least four years.

    Would it make sense for the NYT to produce its own materials for mathematics, advertise the materials (advertising is already part of the newspaper), and … what, sell?… them to teachers who already studied mathematics for at least four years?

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Seems like journalism would be their best first subject, though I think they should stay out of curriculum design entirely.

  8. Historian
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    The debate over the “true” founding of the United States is as absurd as identifying the exact date that a “true” human emerged. For those who believe that the true founding was July 4, 1776 then they may as well believe that Adam and Eve appeared by the magical hand of God. It should be obvious that the tenets of the American Revolution (as debatable as they may be) evolved from 150 years of colonial and British history and longer.

    I began writing this comment with the intent of showing that it is a false statement to assert that there is some sort of agreement among reputable historians as to the extent (if any) that southern slaveholders rebelled against Britain, at least in part, out of desire to protect slavery that they perceived as threatened by Britain. But, I have changed my mind, partly out of space limitations. Rather, I will discuss why there is a massive right-wing assault on the 1619 Project. It is not out of any desire to promote journalistic integrity or a suddenly developed impulse to assert a “true” history. It is an implicit attack on liberals with an undercurrent of racism. By downplaying the role of slavery in the colonial period (which was very large, even if not a primary motive for the Revolution), and, instead promoting the fairy tale version of history that a group of saints, known as the Founding Fathers, out of the purest motives, started a revolution because they simply could not abide the tyrannical British imposing limitations on their “liberty.” So, anyone who does not accept this view (including just about all historians) must be anti-American and not be granted any sort of power. In other words, the attack on the 1619 Project is just another chapter in the right-wing playbook. And just as conservatives have hoped for, liberals, out of a sense of fairness, have been duped once again.

    • EdwardM
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      How Quixotic. You are railing against a viewpoint almost no one here holds (at least not openly) and you consistently ignore what people are actually concerned about – replacing one set of falsehoods with another. It’s just so odd – you seem to think that people can’t be critical of both histories.

      Why, if you are so concerned about the historical distortions of right are you not concerned by the distortions of the left? If it is because you believe one set of distortions is better than the other, that reeks of politics rather than pedagogy.

      I’m sorry to call you out on this, but only yesterday you accused those of us who do not think the 1619 project an objective survey of American history are complete dupes, fools and secretly right wing nutters. The presumption gets my panties in a bunch.

      • Historian
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        You have written three paragraphs. Each one is a distortion of what I have written.

        1. You are not clear as to what “here” refers to. I have never said one set of falsehoods should be replaced with another. What I did say was that I have tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to convey the idea that the nature of historical research and writing often results in significantly differing interpretations of historical events. I have said and will say again that reputable historians differ on the significance of slavery before, during, and after the revolution, but they do almost unanimously agree that it was important. How important is where the differences lie. The differences are a matter of degree. Also, I have stated that the right-wing version of American history is a fairy tale that serves its political agenda to repeat over and over.

        2. If you can supply some examples of distortions of the left, I would be glad to address them.

        3. I have not said that liberals who accept the right-wing fantasies are nutters. I have said that out of sense of fairness (something lacking in the right-wing), they have accepted the right-wing view, perhaps because of what they learned in school decades ago. What I should have clarified is that, of course, not all liberals have fallen for the fairy tales, perhaps not even a majority of them. My goal has been and perhaps that of the 1619 Project as well is to demonstrate a hard and painful truth of American history that most people (in the general population, not necessarily readers of this site), in my estimation, cannot accept out of difficulty in rejecting foundational myths, just as many people cannot reject the fairy tales of the Bible. Another analogy is to a person that goes into denial when diagnosed with a serious illness, even though confronting the illness head on would help the person to recover.

        • Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          I think I’ve heard nearly universal agreement here that racism has been underplayed in history as told to US children. I see no basis for the accusation that liberals accept the right-wing fantasies, at least not most of the people that read this web site. The argument is over the wide gulf between racism being underplayed in the US, especially in the teaching of history, and the 1619 Project’s claim that the country was founded mostly because of racism.

        • EdwardM
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          I think you are so close…
          <blockquote<
          Another analogy is to a person that goes into denial when diagnosed with a serious illness, even though confronting the illness head on would help the person to recover.

          EXACTLY.

          Now just extend that analogy to the 1619 project. On the one hand you have right wing doctors over there saying; “cancer is fake, you are perfectly healthy”. On the other hand Dr Wokenstein says; “no, no, no. You are very sick. The kind of cancer you have is caused by evil (white) demons. Take this l’huile de serpent, it’ll clear you right up”

          Those aren’t very good options but the analogy is closer.

          • Posted September 22, 2020 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

            Good analogy! As is often the case, truth is somewhere in between.

    • dd
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      The massive pushback on the “1619 Project” began with the left–socialists and Marxist who quickly understood that “1619” was effectively displacing class with race.

      It was the World Socialist Web Site who mounted the most comprehensive critique of its many shortcomings. And continues to do so.

      Look on the bottom right of its website to see the many articles/interviews…and also look for the fresh Nikole Hannah-Jones article toward the middle of the page.

      https://www.wsws.org/

    • dd
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      As further reference, there is also a very extensive bibliography of dozens of articles, etc written about “1619” assembled by Phillip Magness at the AIER site at the start of this year:

      https://www.aier.org/article/the-1619-project-debate-a-bibliography/

    • dd
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Further note, there is an initiative, “1776 Unites”, launched by several Black scholars as a riposte against the claims of “1619”. Here is its website:

      https://1776unites.com/

      • Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        That’s very cool. I’ve signed up and look forward at reading their stuff.

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      There is a left-wing assault on the 1619 Project as well. Our host and most commenters here have complaints about it. It seems as if you are inventing a “massive right-wing assault” here in the hope of uniting the left-wing against it. Personally, I think the 1619 Project is so misguided that I actually don’t mind having the right join the left against it.

      I am against the Trump administration’s recently announced push to teach “patriotic history”. It’s just as bad as teaching the “woke history” of the 1619 Project.

      I’m not a historian so I will leave it (mostly) to others to mount that challenge but I object to it from a practical point of view. Like the Woke project of which it is a part, 1619 places ideology above truth. I think we have to fight against that regardless of the virtue of their ultimate objectives. If we give in to it, both left and right will each engage only in their own truth-making and the world will suffer greatly.

    • dd
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      From World Socialist Website:

      “These deletions are not mere wording changes. The “true founding” claim was the core element of the Project’s assertion that all of American history is rooted in and defined by white racial hatred of blacks. According to this narrative, trumpeted by Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, the American Revolution was a preemptive racial counterrevolution waged by white people in North America to defend slavery against British plans to abolish it. The fact that there is no historical evidence to support this claim did not deter the Times and Hannah-Jones from declaring that the historical identification of 1776 with the creation of a new nation is a myth, as is the claim that the Civil War was a progressive struggle aimed at the destruction of slavery. According to the New York Times and Hannah-Jones, the fight against slavery and all forms of oppression were struggles that black Americans always waged alone.”

      https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2020/09/22/1619-s22.html

      • Historian
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I find it amusing that some critics of the 1619 Project will go anywhere for support including socialists, who conclude that the project helps Trump propagate neo-fascist ideas. So, what is the 1619 Project – far left Woke or far right neo-fascism? But, this is great news for the socialists, who have gotten more publicity in the last year than the past 50 combined.

        • dd
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          Hi Historian, Nikole Hannah-Jones has a very active twitter account.

          Please address your question to her and do share!

        • jezgrove
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong-un have all done pretty well publicity-wise since 2016 – though only Vlad is still in favo(u)r. (I wonder what he has on Trump?) The extent to which they are actually socialist is, of course, debatable…

        • BJ
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

          “I find it amusing that some critics of the 1619 Project will go anywhere for support including socialists…”

          OK, I finally have to write this because I’ve seen you do these things every time Jerry posts about this project.

          Is it that you find it amusing, or is it that you (1) find it hard to counter the obviously true claims by many Left-wing people here that criticism has come from all parts of the political spectrum, and (2) you continually refuse to confront people who tell you that a good portion of the Left is just as upset about it as the Right, and you use sentences like the one above as a sly attempt to paint even critics of the project in this comment section as Right-wing Trumpites?

          Every time Jerry has written about this project, you have continually tried to paint criticism of the blatant falsehoods in this project as Right-wing smears, while refusing to address the actual issues. You write a lot of words about what’s important politically and who’s doing the criticizing, but you ignore the enormous number of the critics that you find inconvenient to your narrative of a purely “massive right-wing assault.” You hint that critics — even people you know from your long history of commenting here to be Left-wing — are secretly Right-wing because they don’t support the project, and sometimes seem to hint that only racist Right-wingers wouldn’t support it. You’ve provided many words of prevarication, obfuscation, and vague ad hominems, but little in the way of a response to the actual issue: the 1619 Project contains many falsehoods and appears to be a politically driven project, rather than an attempt to make a proper account of history, and the NYT and the project’s leader have repeatedly changed, walked back, and outright deleted things without any notification or admission.

          • Historian
            Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

            I will ignore your ad hominin attack, your distortion of what I have said and the overall substanceless of your comment. I suppose it is my own fault, but I have apparently failed in trying to convey how historians, which often results in differing interpretations of events. I’ll try one more time to state my view: despite its flaws and inaccuracies, the 1619 Project has served the worthy purpose of alerting the general public to the role of slavery and race in the unfolding of American history. My view largely corresponds to that enunciated by historian Leslie Harris in a fairly long Politico article. Although she found errors in the main Project 1619 article, nevertheless, “it is easy to correct facts; it is much harder to correct a worldview that consistently ignores and distorts the role of African Americans and race in our history in order to present white people as all powerful and solely in possession to the keys of equality, freedom and democracy. At least that is the corrective history toward which the 1619 Project is moving, if imperfectly.”

            https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/03/06/1619-project-new-york-times-mistake-122248

            • Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

              Leslie Harris says, “I was concerned that critics would use the overstated claim to discredit the entire undertaking.”

              The overstated claim DOES discredit the entire undertaking! How can we be expected to overlook the main theme of the work if it is incorrect? It is even captured in the title.

              It seems like you feel the ends justify the means. That it is ok to misrepresent history if it’s for a worthy cause. But how can we back the 1619 Project without seeming to also agree with its author’s main theme? We can’t.

              Nikole Hannah-Jones may admit that she got that part wrong but unless she changes the title of the project and essentially starts over, I can’t see backing it. We need to fight racism but we also have to do it with integrity and truth.

              • Historian
                Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so I’m only guessing, but I don’t think you think that Darwin should be discredited for his blatant racist that was discussed recently at this site. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I will guess once more that you oppose the taking down of statues of Jefferson and Washington because they were slaveholders. If not you, many people at this site would argue that in both instances, one needs to look at the totality of what these people thought and did. Likewise, we need to look at the totality of what the 1619 Project attempts to accomplish. Harris, as do I, think on the whole it is a worthy effort.

                By the way, what exactly do you consider the main theme of the 1619 Project? You haven’t stated that. And, if you think, that the theme is that the Revolution was fought to protect slavery then I disagree. Maybe you think the theme is the promotion of some Woke agenda. In the 1950s, every leftist was accused of being a communist. Now, whoever talks about race is some sort of Woke radical. I think the theme is the quote from Harris. Finally, Hannah-Jones is being condemned for making factual errors. True, they should have been corrected sooner, but I have read many history books by prominent historians that made egregious factual errors. The world needs more and better fact checkers.

                I stand by my assertion that the attack on the 1619 Project is spearheaded by the right-wing, not in the name of journalistic standards or the need for “true” history, but rather for the purpose of labeling people who support the theme of the project, as I understand it, as being un-American. When you say that most people at this site understand the racism in America’s past, you may or may not be correct, but you can only be referring to the handful of people that comment. Nobody can say what the many thousands who just read this site can be possibly thinking. But, we can say with certainty that the historical literacy of Americans is abysmal and if the project can raise it to some degree then it is serving a useful purpose.

              • Posted September 23, 2020 at 12:08 am | Permalink

                How do you equate the false narrative of the 1619 Project with evaluation of works by Darwin, Washington, and Jefferson? The former is a recent work with ongoing significance. There’s no question at all about what era’s thinking should be used to judge it.

                “By the way, what exactly do you consider the main theme of the 1619 Project?”

                I’ll give it a shot. The 1619 Project is intended to tell its audience that the country was founded with slavery at its heart. It follows directly from CRT’s idea that racism is structural and that everything should be evaluated on that basis. The traditional US founding story talks about freedom, democracy, and justice which clashes with the CRT story. The 1619 Project corrects that by giving the country a new origin story, one that has racism and slavery at its center.

                “Hannah-Jones is being condemned for making factual errors.”

                I would say she’s being condemned for having bad ideas at the heart of her project. It’s not like she just got a few dates wrong. Critical Race Theory is a really bad set of ideas and the 1619 Project is a vehicle for promoting them by rewriting US history.

                Even if we accept that slavery and racism are not taught fairly in history classes, who gives her the right to take it in a completely different direction without her ideas first being subjected to peer review and coming out on top? It’s like the NYT found some climate change denialist and turned their “interesting ideas” into the paper’s centerpiece on the subject.

            • Jimbo
              Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

              Please do explain why the 1619 Project’s historian-vetted, much needed corrective to the history of US slavery required post hoc revision (i.e. fraud) and who do I see at the NYT about changing some other past stories in the “paper of record”? How is that even possible? How is this not a scandal where the Editor-in-Chief is not demanding who did this?!

            • Posted September 23, 2020 at 6:20 am | Permalink

              the 1619 Project has served the worthy purpose of alerting the general public to the role of slavery and race in the unfolding of American history

              I think most people in America – at least those with an education and who are likely to interact with the 1619 project – already know that. The problem is the sizeable minority of people who know it but don’t care.

    • eric
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Whatever skewed history the right wants to put out, doesn’t excuse the left putting out skewed history in response.

      The 1619’s author said the founding of our country should be 1619. This is skewed or, at least, a radical departure from the mainstream. So it should IMO not be taught. The second claim, that the revolutionary war was started to try and preserve the institution of slavery, is also a large departure from the mainstream and so likewise should not be taught.

      So both of these are problems. The fact that Dr. (Prof?) Hannah-Jones hid her position on one of them is also a problem because it opens up the question of intellectual honesty and transparency. If you’re going to promote non-mainstream ideas in your lessons, then good scholarship requires that you call it out and explain the where, when, and why of it. But she’s clearly trying to hide some of her positions. Which creates something of a “one bad apple” problem; now we have to wonder what else in the barrel is rotten.

      • Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely agree. If Nikole Hannah-Jones wanted to make revolutionary historical claims, she should have written a paper and submitted it to a journal devoted to American History or, perhaps, racial issues. She needs to have her ideas discussed by experts in the field. It is ridiculous to have it turned into a project pushed by a major newspaper as if it represented accepted wisdom. We already have school districts wanting to use it in their curriculum. What happened to peer review?

        Of course, this end run around actual history was exactly what was intended. With the Woke, truth is whatever black people says it is, history included.

    • Jimbo
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Well, there was a Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the drafting of the US Constitution in 1787 so I’d wager historians probably focus down on that decade for a reason. It seems quite credible that America was not founded in 1925 nor 67 BC.

      Funny how you rather rudely insinuate that many here are either right wing dupes, ignorant of history, misdirected in their criticism of the 1619 Project, or acting in bad faith. Spare us your self-aggrandizing, spittle-laden conspiracy theory.

      • Historian
        Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        My goodness, you want to deny me my free speech. I guess you’re an outlier at this site. I must say, I do like the expression “spittle-laden.” Maybe I’ll be able to use it in some future comment. Do you have any more colorful expressions you would like to share?

  9. Jonathan Dore
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    “The problem with this is that it’s standard for a paper to note when a column or article has been changed, usually with an addendum on the page.”

    Yes, they did that when a sub-editor substituted an incorrect word in one of my book reviews for them (https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/11/books/pacific-overtures.html, with the correction noted at the end). At the time, the reason they did so rather than just correcting the word, as it was explained to me, was so that the online version would match the print version of the paper. Since the mistake was theirs (made after I had seen a proof) I was annoyed they didn’t simply correct it. But the situation here is an editorial change of mind, not simply the correction of an error. That shouldn’t be glossed over.

  10. Adam M.
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t care nearly so much if I didn’t have children that would soon be entering school. How do you find out what sort of indoctrination a school is going to push before you enroll them and find them yelling Marxist slogans at you when you tell them to clean their rooms? I don’t get the impression you can go down to your local public school and say “Hey, let me examine your curriculum…”

  11. jezgrove
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    The unacknowledged amendments etc. put Hannah-Jones in the same category as Iris Publishing, who simply deleted the journal paper “What’s the Deal with Birds” without acknowledging its errors in an honest and transparent way.

    When it comes to “the Project’s assertion that the Revolutionary War in America was fought because the colonists wanted to ensure the continuation of slavery in their new country” the mainstream US version of events also leaves quite a lot to be desired, too. “No taxation without representation” gets some hollow laughs from the residents and businesses of D.C. I should think. And as I’ve mentioned before, the British insistence on keeping agreements with Native Americans forbidding further westward expansion was another factor that the colonies didn’t like.

    • TJR
      Posted September 23, 2020 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      Indeed, if you want go all revisionist then it would make more sense to say that the colonists rebelled because the British government wanted them to make deals and trade with the Amerindians, but the colonists just wanted to kill them and steal their land.

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    The big bold idea of claiming 1619 as the true founding of the United States seems to me to depend on the fact and also popular notion of 1776 as the founding – a broadside against the 4th of July, especially as a holiday of celebration with fun summertime stuff, and therefore a reinforcement of the more difficult historical viewpoint. Thus, 1619 makes a dramatic point.

    But is 1776 truly *the* founding year? How significant is the Declaration as a founding document, especially compared to the constitution? Isn’t the Declaration of Independence more of an expression of Enlightenment ideals that had never been put forth before, in the interest of codifying a new country? And isn’t the constitution more properly viewed as the document under the hood that was doing the real work of a new country? But that date isn’t nearly as cemented in the populace as a founding. And I don’t know how important it is, really, which date is recognized as a true start date.

    • Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      No one sensible really treats July 4th, 1776 as some sort of instantaneous creation event. Obviously the USA got created in steps over years. We picked this date for the purpose of celebrating its creation. Likewise, 1619 was chosen as a symbolic date to draw attention to their different view of history. Given their goals, it was one of their better choices. It sounds way better than “The US was founded for the purpose of maintaining slavery as an institution.” I don’t think we’re discussing these dates but the history behind them.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted September 22, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I can certainly understand your confusion 1776 or 1787. Hey, that is 11 years. If you are a Thomas Jefferson guy you think 1776. The Declaration was a letter of grievances to Britain, to the King and told him we were leaving Britain, although the King had pretty well already told us to get in line or else. John Adams thought we had already told Britain off months before so he was confused as well. It also puzzles some become the conflict had been going on for more than a year before – Just ask Washington and all those guys up in Boston. 1775 was the beginning of the revolution in my book.

      But fighting a war does not make a country and all we had before 1787 was the Articles of Confederation and many people already knew that did not get it done and that is why they had the meeting in Philly. Until the Constitution was ratified in 1788 we had some agreements and mostly chaos. What 1776 was to Jefferson and apparently to many other today was this big feeling, this great declaration of intent.

      • Posted September 22, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        1781, the year the Articles were ratified, seems to me to make the best date of origin. The Articles linked the former colonies in “perpetual union” and named the resulting body THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          The only problem with that is, the war was not yet won. But more important, the Articles, if you really look at them did not do much. You appointed a new “president” annually. You often did not have enough members show up to do anything. And even if they did it took one vote per state by all 13 to do anything. Therefore nothing got done. They were a joke. If you would like to start the country from there, it was a comedy. The Articles were so useless a couple of smart guys, Hamilton and Madison decided to call for a meet in Philly.

        • Filippo
          Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

          “1781, the year the Articles were ratified, seems to me to make the best date of origin. The Articles linked the former colonies in “perpetual union” and named the resulting body THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”

          I think your logic quite strong.

          (IIRC, this topic was extensively discussed here during the last few years. There was not unanimity among posters.)

          If the U.S. existed in 1776, then it seems that it existed in 1781. I gather that there was at least one POTUS 1781-1787, yet is/are not listed as presidents in history. In my K-12 school experience, there was the most modest, dismissive mention of the Articles of Confederation,, as if sweeping it under the rug.

          • Posted September 22, 2020 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

            John Hanson. I doubt that one in a hundred Americans can name him. The Confederation under the Articles suffered under the same faults that led to the failure of the Confederacy in the civil war. Some historians believe that if the Confederacy had had a stronger central government, it could have held off the Union forces.

  13. Jon Gallant
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    “I agree that the aims of the 1619 Project are admirable.” The aims of Lenin and his colleagues were also admirable, when they seized power in 1917. Their aims were so admirable that their leaders did not hesitate to lie their heads off, take hostages in the civil war, and ruthlessly suppress every alternative means of expression—all deemed necessary on behalf of the transcendent admirableness of their long-term aims.

    The Woke obviously pay no attention to the
    ends/means paradox. Unfortunately, I think Wokery now entails something worse: what I detect is a clear tropism for fakery. I wonder if this comes out of postmodernism, with its denial of objective reality or the
    value of logical consistency.

  14. davelenny
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Even the re-worded version of the 1619 project – ‘by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very centre of our national narrative’ – seems somewhat suspect.

    My knowledge of US history is dated and fragmented, but the very centre? How many things can fit into the very centre? And by implication of the spatial metaphor, what and who are excluded from the very centre? Did the centre determine everything outside the centre?

    Perhaps I’m reading this too literally, and obviously I need to read much more, but the NYT’s phrasing looks more like critical race theory applied to everything rather than a balanced look at US history.

  15. Lee
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    “If you can’t trust them on details like the above, can you trust the view of history purveyed to kids in school?”

    For me it’s not just a matter of trust. For me it’s a congenital inability to suffer fools gladly. I gave up my Times subscription a year ago and haven’t looked back. I sometimes miss certain writers, but overall don’t think my life is any the worse or less well informed than it was.

    Journalistic credibility is hard to win and easy to lose. The Times blew their legacy big time IMO.

  16. denise
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I’m very disturbed that a newspaper would change a piece this way after it has been published and without noting that it is doing so. The idea of a paper of record is now a joke.

  17. john reynolds
    Posted September 22, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Why is slavery always in a historical context to the far left? Why is it never in current affairs? Black slavery has been extinct in the West for quite a while now. But it is going very strongly in africa. Why are they more concerned about slaves dead for centuries and don’t give a damn about actual real black slaves in the here and now? I think it is because the long dead slaves are worth more to the advancement of their ideology than slaves alive today are.

  18. Matthew Jenkins
    Posted September 23, 2020 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Minor typo, ‘George Winston’ – mixing George Orwell and Winston Smith?

  19. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 23, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    This “1619 row” hasn’t rippled this side of the Atlantic – at least, not enough to notice – so I don’t know if this point has been addressed previously.
    The Meso-American and South American societies which the Spanish and then other Europeans displaced and replaced had a variety of forms of indentured servitude for simple economic reasons, and more complex ones involving disposing of prisoners of war (steps in the process of feeding them into the religious heart-rending production lines), long before Christopher Columbus’s mathematical shortcomings were outweighed by his PR skills. So how does this idea that slavery was introduced to the continent in 1619 get off the starting blocks?
    I admit to not knowing enough about North American “First Nations” (other euphemisms are available) and their economics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had forms of indentured servitude tending towards slavery too – most pre-modern societies did, after all.

    • Posted September 23, 2020 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      It seems inevitable that Native Americans will claim that US history is *really* based on genocide. I’ll let them pick the best date for their “Project”. Since genocide trumps slavery, this will really divide the Woke.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 23, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        When did someone produce a list of “betrumps”, as in “genocide trumps slavery, while slaveholding trumps poor fashion sense”? The culture wars over that would have rent the heavens, but I seem to have totally missed it.
        Hang on – how can genocide trump slavery, anyway? An effective genocide would leave no survivors – by definition – while every slave-holding society I’ve had any knowledge of would go to fairly strenuous efforts to maintain a breeding population of stock, so they could be a slave-holding society in the next generation (gains by economics and/ or warfare notwithstanding).
        So who trumps? Genocide by killing everyone, or slave-holding for leaving lots of potential witnesses?
        Which produces greater outrage – America’s successful slave-holding prior to 1864/5/6 (whenever it ended, if it has ended), or the Armenian genocide 6 decades later, or the unsuccessful Nazi genocide of the European Jews a couple of decades after that?

        • Posted September 23, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

          I was simply thinking that being a live slave is still better than being dead. I’ll admit that I was oversimplifying. In my own defense, it is not a choice anyone should be forced to make.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted September 23, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            That’s a very “life-ist” position to take. Very discriminatory against people who, through no fault of their own, are dead.
            Don’t you think the dead have rights? and isn’t it a choice that anyone should be able to make, without consequences?

            • Posted September 23, 2020 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              Do I think the dead have rights? No, but I will admit to being unsure of what “dead to rights” means. Well, I guess I do know what it means but not why it means that.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted September 24, 2020 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                When the “1%” start to get cybernetic brain enhancement and replacement working (obviously, members of the “99%” will supply the experimental animals and the technological skill), then the definition of “brain dead” will need changed, or the dead (say, Elon’s brain in a solar powered Mars-orbiting artefact) will be acquiring rights.

              • Posted September 24, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                When they start claiming that an AI enhanced brain should get two votes at election time, then we should worry.

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted September 30, 2020 at 9:11 am | Permalink

                I doubt that’ll be an issue. They’ll just replace the idea of elections with an AI. It’ll be an AI whose output is always “Trump”, since that is clearly the correct answer to the questions asked of it, but that’s what you come to expect of politics these days.

              • rickflick
                Posted September 24, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Two votes? You might then see the AI part vote Dem and the NI (natural intelligence) part vote GOP. Since they cancel, why bother to vote? They’d tell each other:

                “Let’s stay home and watch Netflix.”
                “I’ll make the popcorn…”

  20. prinzler
    Posted September 23, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    It *must* be an essential value that we admit mistakes, not only for journalists.

  21. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 23, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    Two thoughts :

    1. Would the “project”, as dubbed, make more sense if it had a title like “The 1862 Project”, and argue that the “true” United States was an instrument of the rich and powerful to enslave ALL citizens? That’s make for an edgy read, because slavery was certainly a component of capitalism.

    2. I imagine that every adult, perhaps well into maturity, can find at least one thing to resent about their education in public high school and below. On the subject of slavery in the United States and indigenous peoples, certainly there was no easy way to treat it, and it didn’t age well. Modernity brings new approaches, and the rejection of old. Could the writing in this NTY “project” be built on such a seed of resentment, and also hinged to an impotence of the paper’s main strengths in the education system – i.e. it’s not their job.


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  1. […] aims, saying that she never tried to change the foundation date of America from 1776 to 1619. But she did make that claim several times, and it quietly disappeared from the paper’s website without an explicit correction. And […]

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