More infighting among academics about the 1619 Project

December 13, 2021 • 1:30 pm

I can’t remember how I found this article at the American Institute for Economic Research (if a reader told me, apologies for forgetting); I suspect it’s a conservative site but I’m not going to check. I did check on the author of the piece, Phillip Magness, who is an economic historian and Education director at the Institute. The article below also describes his work:

Magness’s work encompasses the economic history of the United States and Atlantic world, with specializations in the economic dimensions of slavery and racial discrimination, the history of taxation, and measurements of economic inequality over time. He also maintains active research interest in higher education policy and the history of economic thought. In addition to his scholarship, Magness’s popular writings have appeared in numerous venues including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Newsweek, Politico, Reason, National Review, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

His website shows he’s written a number of books, including one called The 1619 Project: A Critique, which shows you that he’s no fan of the New York Times Initiative. And here’s a screenshot of his book’s contents: Amazon:

The book gets 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon, with 793 ratings, but I’ll discount those because those might come from people who object to the 1619 Project on principle because it calls attention to oppression. (I’m trying here to avoid being overly critical of the 1619 Project despite its publicly-revealed problems—some revealed by Magness—because the project’s intentions were generally good. I don’t recommend its curriculum being taught in schools because of the historical inaccuracies, nor do I approve of a woke newspaper using its power to indoctrinate schoolchildren—but past teaching about the history of African Americans, at least when I was a kid, was woefully deficient, and I hope that the Project calls attention to any remaining wrong impressions that need to be righted.

At any rate, what is Magness’s problem? In this article, it’s that Nikole Hannah-Smith, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning instigator of the 1619 Project, used Magness’s own research on slavery extensively to support her thesis, but then deep-sixed his findings and used other sources when she found that Magness was highly critical of other aspects of the Project. The article does have a whiff of sour grapes, but it also reveals the mess that the 1619 Project has become, and the unprofessional way that Hannah-Jones behaves, including ad hominem questioning of historical credentials when someone disagrees with her.

Click on the screenshot to read:


The stuff that Hannah-Jones used in the 1619 Project from Magness was his finding that even up to his assassination, Lincoln was looking for a way to export black people (slaves, I presume) to other countries. This was not done as a “Final Solution,” but as a way to remove blacks from the hate and oppression that they’d encounter in the U.S. I suppose Hannah-Jones likes this idea because it seems to knock Lincoln down as “The Great Emancipator”, buttressing the 1619 Project’s initial claim that African-American progress in the U.S. barely depended on white people.

Here’s what Magness says, and it’s not at all flattering towards Lincoln:

Reality is much more straightforward. In addition to being a sincere antislavery man, Lincoln was also a sincere colonizationist who meant what he said when he espoused this position. A substantial body of my own work on the Civil War era investigates this exact question, conclusively showing that Lincoln continued to pursue colonization schemes through diplomatic channels well beyond the Emancipation Proclamation, and likely into the last months of his presidency. When Nikole Hannah-Jones made similar claims in 2019, she was drawing directly on my work as a historian of that subject.

In fact, Hannah-Jones stated as much in a series of now-deleted comments as some of the other historian-critics questioned her claims about Lincoln and colonization.

Then things went sour.

There were certain interpretive differences between my work and the 1619 Project on this point – for example, Hannah-Jones understated the extent to which antislavery motives shaped Lincoln’s support for the measure, which he saw as a pathway to wean the country away from the brutal plantation system. But the historical evidence of Lincoln’s deep connections to colonization was clear, and at least on that point the 1619 Project got it right.

That is, until Hannah-Jones realized that the historian she was citing was also an outspoken critic of other aspects of the 1619 Project.

“What are the credentials, exactly of Phil Magness?” Hannah-Jones fumed in another now-deleted comment after she realized that I had offered a less-than-favorable assessment of her project’s other historical claims, and particularly its error-riddled essay on the economics of slavery by Matthew Desmond. Her fury intensified in January 2020 after Alex Lichtenstein published a lengthy defense of the 1619 Project against his historian critics, attempting to invoke his authority as the editor of the American Historical Review to arbitrate the disputes over its claims about slavery in the Revolutionary through Civil War eras. At the time I pointed out that Lichtenstein – a 20th century historian – was not an expert in the antebellum United States, and was thus not qualified to assume the role of historical judge and jury on specialist claims about that era. Hannah-Jones snapped back, “Lol. You aren’t a specialist in that era either yet that didn’t stop you.”

Setting aside the fact that only a few weeks prior Hannah-Jones herself had been explicitly touting my work on Lincoln’s colonization projects to justify her own claims in the 1619 Project, I’ll simply note that I’ve authored over two dozen scholarly works on slavery and the Civil War era. This includes my aforementioned book, the chapter on colonization in the Essential Civil War Curriculum, as well as multiple peer-reviewed articles on slavery in the U.S. and broader Atlantic world. Hannah-Jones, by contrast, has no known original scholarship to her name of any kind on slavery or this period of American history.

This is more or less academic gossip, but it does show that the academic underpinnings of the 1619 Project, at least insofar as how its director deals with actual historical data, are shaky, especially when she doesn’t argue the data (she just deletes tweets), but questions credentials. That’s not the way to argue, particularly because professional historians with more training and accomplishment than Hannah-Jones have taken issue with important conclusions of the 1619 Project. Those she dismisses because the criticism is from white people:

When James McPherson offered his own less-than-flattering take on Hannah-Jones’s work in November 2019, she responded dismissively: “Who considers him preeminent? I don’t.” McPherson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the Civil War, and author of what is widely considered the standard single-volume treatment of the subject, Battle Cry of Freedom. In December 2019, McPherson joined distinguished scholars Gordon Wood, Sean Wilentz, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes in questioning Hannah-Jones’s attempts to recast the American Revolution as a fight to preserve slavery. Rather than answer them, she dismissed the group as a whole by labeling them “white historians.”

And she’s criticized academics who aren’t professional historians but who weighed in against the Project; you’ll know these people:

Hannah-Jones saved her most brazenly abusive attacks though for African-American critics of the 1619 Project, such as Columbia University professor John McWhorter and journalist Coleman Hughes. When McWhorter, Hughes, and other African-American scholars launched a competitor 1776 Project in February 2020 through the Robert Woodson Center, Hannah-Jones lashed out on Twitter by posting photos of herself making derogatory gestures at her black interlocutors. Although she later deleted the tweets at the apparent request of her employer, Hannah-Jones made Hughes in particular a focus of her continued verbal abuse. “That Ivy League education certainly didn’t do you any favors,” she wrote in another comment to Hughes in August 2020. “Next time screenshot me and don’t quote text me because I’d rather not read your drivel. I tried to find something to quote tweet in that profoundly mediocre 1776 Project essay you wrote, but alas, nothing was worthy.”

Here’s one of those derogatory gestures, though I’m not quite sure what it means. Readers?

At any rate, the idea that Lincoln may not have been as anti-slavery as we thought, something raised by Magness and used and touted by Hannah-Jones, was credited to someone else when Hannah-Jones found that Magness wasn’t fully on board with the 1619 Project:

The 1619 Project book now states only that Lincoln supported “colonization schemes as late as 1862,” and further implies that Lincoln abandoned the program after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Hannah-Jones’s new source for this revised claim appeared in footnote 38 of her essay: a 2016 popular press book entitled Stamped From the Beginning by Critical Race Theory activist Ibram X. Kendi.

And, having observed Hannah Jones’s behavior through all the criticism, I’ve realized that no real scholar would act the way she did in the face of that criticism, including questioning credentials, making gestures, changing what you wrote without admitting it, and so on.  The Project could have been so much better—and it still has some very good stuff—but the moment the NYT decided to call it the 1619 Project was the moment that they wedded themselves to an ideology and a narrative that could not be altered.

But as a broader matter of principle, Hannah-Jones’s behavior illustrates the absence of basic scholarly integrity from her approach to writing history. Rather than following the evidence where it leads, Hannah-Jones picks and chooses bits and pieces of her arguments from a secondary literature based on whether it conforms to her preconceived political narrative. She approaches citations as a tool by which she can reward other scholars who affirm that narrative. And if a previously-cited scholar runs afoul of Hannah-Jones, she is perfectly willing to alter the “history” presented in the 1619 Project in ways that excise the offending work and replace it with a completely different narrative – provided that its author flatters Hannah-Jones’s own personal politics and ambitions in the process.

69 thoughts on “More infighting among academics about the 1619 Project

  1. “This is more or less academic gossip, but it does show that the academic underpinnings of the 1619 Project, at least insofar as how its director deals with actual historical data, are shaky, especially when she doesn’t argue the data (she just deletes tweets), but questions credentials.” – disgraceful behaviour from Hannah-Jones. It appears from her actions and words that she just doesn’t get intelligent debate.

    1. Not one of the most prominent purveyors of BLM/CRT/1619 propaganda has shown any interest whatsoever in engaging with scholars or writers in intelligent discussion or reasoned debate. Meanwhile, it has been recently reported that Ibram Kendi was paid, several weeks ago, nearly $45,000 by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for three hours of his time.

      1. Jeeze. The UWM Graduate school says I should get a link to a recording of this. I’ll have to seek it out and see what $40K is worth.

        1. Jeeze again. Apparently $40K only buys you two weeks worth of video access. I didn’t learn about it in time so I don’t get to see it. Seems like perfectly normal academic sharing of ideas, no? /headslap

      2. Some internet celebrity should pay Kendi for a gig so when he shows up it’s Coleman Hughes.

        I’m thinking in the style of Sacha Baron Cohen…

  2. … past teaching about the history of African Americans, at least when I was a kid, was woefully deficient …

    Americans, out of interest, how would you rate the teaching on this you received? (And what decade was that?)

    1. Mine would have been identical to PCC’s, at least while he was in the Arlington County Schools, 2 years ahead of me, and I’d agree with him. There were Virginia state “mandates” (which today’s Right might have loved rather than hated) to teach Virginia and US history in certain grades, with specific textbooks. IIRC in 4th grade we did VA history (or maybe it was US that year, but most of the first half of those were practically identical, because, after all, US history started (and almost ended) with Virginia, at least as our state leaders saw it).
      I still remember sitting at the dinner table ~1959 when my brother, a year ahead of me, proudly showed off his knowledge that the Civil War was NOT about slavery, but about “States’ Rights.” My parents (one had majored in history, the other in Political Science, at colleges in Union states) sat briefly in stunned silence before questioning him about his information.
      A year later, there it was in my textbook, about as specific and direct as that. And of course, that would be on the upcoming tests.
      A few years later, my mother began her long teaching career in the same school district, trying to make sure her high school seniors had a better understanding of our local, state, and national governments.

      1. My son (currently a senior in high school, Minnesota), based on his classes, got a pretty education in this. The Civil Rights movement (and what prompted it) were covered pretty well.

    2. Mine was pretty good (we covered the trans-Atlantic slave trade up through the civil rights movement without glossing over the bad stuff) apart from the general conclusion that “and now in the year 199X we have solved all of America’s problems”

      This was my 90s education in Tennessee, pre-CRT bans.

    3. I was born in ’69 in Pontiac, MI, and–possibly because of the location–I feel we were given a pretty decent, and often brutally honest, portrayal of how bad (in every sense) both slavery and post-emancipation discrimination/bigotry (both legal and social) had been and were. This may be because many of our teachers and administrators had suffered through the more recent parts of it themselves. Our high school itself had been rebuilt following the “race riots” in the area not long before. So in this sense, I was lucky; I had the benefit of a public school system in a recently thriving blue collar town, with a great deal of racial diversity, and though the auto industry in the area was in economic decline by the time I went to school, we still retained many of the benefits from when it had been legitimately prosperous, including some truly excellent teachers.

    4. Education in the 70’s. What I received was eclectic (we moved around) but was a strong enough treatment of slavery that when I went to College and heard some of the defenses of the Confederacy and slavery touted by southern students, I couldn’t believe anyone actually bought that claptrap…and the notion of HS teachers having taught it blew my mind. Probably my first real life exposure to biased/skewed coverage.

      1. I am going to strongly recommend (again) James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. This single-volume history of the US Civil War does an excellent job of covering what led up to the war in addition to the war itself. The was story can’t be told properly without the prelude.

        It’s also a Pulitzer Prize winner. It is one of the most engaging history books I’ve ever read.

        1. Thanks. I’ve decided to try e-books and recently bought a tablet to use as a dedicated reader. Just downloaded the Kindle version of this book.

    5. I was born in 1938 and finished high school in Youngstown, Ohio in 1956. Our high school US history teacher explain why the text book ended with the end of WWII with the comment, “From World War II on is current events.” The Civil War was covered as a war. Battles were named and dates given. The reasons for the war were never explained other than the South fought for “States Rights” and the North to preserve the Union.

  3. I became acquainted with Phillip Magness’s writings because of the “1619 Project” and found it to be scrupulous and honest, with, best as I can tell, no salient cherry picking (ie, what he writes about Lincoln). Hannah-Jones is practically the opposite and really dislikes him. (It was he who discovered and documented all the notorious stealth editing that the NY Times and Hannah-Jones did to the “1619” project months after its debut. Google it because it’s worth reading.)

    American Institute for Economic Research is largely Libertarian in political leanings. There is a bibliography as of Feb 2020 with writings about 1619 done up to that time:

    In 2021 there have been some extraordinary essays published about “1619” by Tom Mackaman, including this one:

    The great historian Sean Wilentz published earlier this year a fantastic essay in Opera Historica, a Czech journal. I think it’s much worth pondering why no American journal dared to publish it.

    1. Sean Wilentz is a prominent historian, who in addition to writing scholarly books is a prodigious author of articles for popular publications. He is also very pugnacious and seems to be always getting into arguments with other historians. Recently, he has been involved in a brouhaha over the question of whether the Constitution was a pro-slavery document (he says it wasn’t). What I am saying is that Wilentz should not be taken as the final word on any historical topic. As with many areas of historical discussion, reputable scholars have different views, often because of the ambiguity of the evidence. I agree with those historians that argue that the Constitution, in its application, did more to perpetuate slavery than help to end it, but I will readily say that this is a debate that will never be resolved.

      1. Not implying that he, or anyone else, should be taken as final word. History is interpretation after all, which should be anchored by facts.

        It’s an extraordinary essay and it’s fascinating that no English-based journal published it.

      2. Seems unfair though. Since slavery existed before it was written, the Constitution merely had to ignore it to effectively perpetuate slavery. I’m no historian but my impression is that the founders just didn’t want an argument over slavery to get in the way of creating a new government. I get that many think they missed an opportunity to eliminate slavery right from the start but that might have resulted in an earlier civil war rather than the founding of the USA. Ok, historians, tell me where I got all this wrong.

        1. The debate among historians goes something like this. At the time the Constitution was written in 1787, the “mood” of the country was that slavery was an evil and that it will go away some unspecified day in the future. But, of course, slavery would not go away any time soon. Under these circumstances, historians such as Sean Wilentz view the Constitution as setting the groundwork for future abolition because the document itself never uses the word “slave.” Wilentz believes that most of the framers believed in the notion “of no property in man.” Other historians look at the concrete provisions of the Constitution, such as the 3/5 clause and the obligation of fugitive slaves to be returned to their masters, as proof that the document helped perpetuate slavery. As I stated above in another comment, I view the document as doing little to prepare the way to end slavery. Lincoln interpreted the Constitution as an argument for condemning slavery. All this shows is that the Constitution, as the Bible, is subject to just about any interpretation. It’s an ambiguous document in many ways and this ambiguity is the source of many of our political disputes to this very day.

          It should also be noted that even though many, if not most, of the southern slaveholders, viewed the institution as an evil, this attitude did not last long. By the 1830s, slaveholders began to view slavery as a positive good, which ultimately led to secession and Civil War. It should also be noted at the time of the Constitution, many of the slaveholders that considered slavery evil believed this because of the damage it did to them as it did to the actual slaves. The poor darlings whined that they were the true victims of slavery because of the burdens it placed on them having to take care of Black people that could not possibly be allowed equality with White people.

          1. At the time the Constitution was written in 1787, the “mood” of the country was that slavery was an evil and that it will go away some unspecified day in the future.

            This fits my reading from that period.

            I don’t think a cohesive US government could have been approved by the separate states without accommodating slave-holding in the South*. One can argue whether the better path was the one taken or if it would have been the one un-taken: Two separate republics.

            (* People should also recall that slavery was very wide-spread, one might say almost universal, at the time of the drafting of the constitution. Yes, retaining it was hypocritical to the D of I and the constitution.)

        2. I would very much recommend the book, The Summer of 1787 by David O. Stewart. This will give the reader a good look at what actually took place during the making of the Constitution and who the major players were. It was not that slavery was not disgusted at the Convention, it was disgust a lot. It was always the elephant in the room. The only chance they would have had to begin ending slavery would have lost at least three, maybe more states from even remaining in Philly. North and South Carolina and Georgia would have been gone. Since Rhode Island did not. even show up there are 4 states out. Not a good way to start a new government. The small states and the southern states made a deal and they out voted the big states to get what is in the Constitution. New York was not there long enough to matter so that is 5 states missing. You had to have 9 for ratification so now what do you do.

          1. A point well made, Randall. Although “It was not that slavery was not disgusted at the Convention, it was disgust a lot” – suggests that now the Woke even control autocorrect. 😉

              1. I thought you must be using voice dictation since “disgust” sounds a lot like “discussed”. Interesting that you weren’t. The transcription error was all in your head. 😉

              2. The Internet has a weird effect on brains. People seem to be struggling more with near-homophones than ever before (‘should of gone’… or worse, ‘should of went’). I find myself having to double check whether I mean ‘lie’ or ‘lay’ more than I ever thought I would, not because I don’t know the difference (I do), but because I have become desensitized by other people using terms incorrectly. Here, I find myself making more simple typos due to some of the bugginess I see with the editing function – and to my over-reliance on infinite editability.

              3. Sure, blame it on the internet. Could it also be that you are getting older? 😉 I am going to be 70 in April and I do notice that I make more perceptual mistakes than when I was young. I quite often read passages incorrectly the first time through and have to stop and read them again. It’s not a big problem but noticeable.

    2. Thank you for your comment and your interest. I am the editor of the Czech journal who organized this debate on the 1619 Project. I am glad it made some impact. Ivo Cerman

  4. Had no idea. Hannah-Jones acts straight up disgracefully. How embarrassing. Yale made the right choice (initially).
    Such a lost opportunity. A different approach would have had such a greater impact in the long run.

  5. This new furor over the 1619 Project illustrates the following:

    1. We should care at all what Hannah-Jones thinks about Lincoln and colonization except that the 1619 Project has done a very positive thing by rekindling public debate and awareness about the role of slavery and race in American history (which is why I supported its publication).

    2. Nor should we care in the least about the opinions of countless bloggers that do nothing more than parrot the views of others that they agree with.

    3. What we need to do in trying to understand issues such as the relationship between Lincoln and the movement to ship freed slaves out of the country is to look to the scholars that have actually researched the topic.

    4. However, here we run into a problem for those looking for the “truth.” Scholars, looking at the same evidence, have come to different conclusions regarding Lincoln’s racial attitudes and his support for colonization, particularly in the last years of his presidency. The reason for this is that the evidence is often ambiguous and can be interpreted in different ways. Although a mountain of scholarship has been disgorged on Lincoln and on colonization, much of it boils down to the effort of historians trying to get into Lincoln’s head (as they do with the heads of most historical figures). Playing amateur psychologists, they try to determine what actually motivated him. I don’t think this endeavor is particularly fruitful, but it does help them get articles published.

    5. Let’s look at what we can say is pretty much incontestable about Lincoln and colonization. First, for the great majority of his political career, he was an ardent supporter of it as espoused by his political idol Henry Clay, one of the most important politicians of the first half of the 19th century and a slaveholder. Lincoln held the conventional view that Blacks and Whites could not co-exist as equals in the United States. This view was in no way incompatible with the belief that slavery was an evil. Second, as late as December 1862, in a message to Congress, he presented a detailed plan for colonization. Some historians speculate that he did this because he believed that the country could not accept emancipation (as was to be promulgated by his pending Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863) without a plan to rid the nation of Blacks. But this is speculation. After this date, he did not publicly talk about colonization, although he may have considered plans that got nowhere.

    The point of my comment is to reinforce what I have said many times before: there is no such thing as “true” history if one takes history to mean an explanation of why things happen as opposed to a mere recitation of facts. Well-meaning and honest historians can come to very different conclusions to explain why events unfolded as they did.

    1. > This new furor over the 1619 Project illustrates the following:

      How has the word ‘furor’ not been cancelled yet?

        1. And if 1619 teaches us anything, it is that actual history and etymology are unimportant. Just feelings and impressions. sigh

    2. On Dec. 31, 1862, one day before signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln signed an authorization to resettle 5000 Black people on a 25 sq. mile island, Ile a Vache (Cow Island), off Haiti. The settlers would grow cotton for NY investors led by one Bernard Koch and continue to live on the island permanently as Haitian citizens. It was all in the contract. The first boat load of abt. 550 volunteers (allotted $50 a head from Congressional appropriations for resettling free Blacks outside of the US) set sail in early April, 1863. After misadventures and failure of shareholders to send promised supplies, in July the colony entered into revolt. Washington only got around to sending a rescue ship for the abandoned colony in late December, 1863. This brought the destitute survivors (around 100 settlers died during the 9 months they were in Haiti) back to the US, where they were offloaded without compensation and told to go their way. That is how the U.S. government under Lincoln treated Black people.
      The Cow Island fiasco also helps explain why Lincoln didn’t openly push colonization schemes in 1864. By the end of 1864 Lincoln was back looking for ways to pay for Black colonization no longer funded by Congress. In April, 1865, the week of the assassination, Lincoln had a White House meeting with General Benjamin Butler, where he expressed interest in a scheme to transfer Black Union troops, viewed to be armed and dangerous, with their families to Panama to dig a ship canal across the Isthmus. The following link about Cow Island is in French, but Google does a good job translating:

      1. I don’t think Lincoln’s Message to Congress of December 1, 1862 (the equivalent of today’s State of the Union) gets enough attention. In it he went into great depth discussing possible compensated emancipation and colonization. I will limit myself to his views on the latter. In the Message, he proposed a constitutional amendment, stated as follows: “Congress may appropriate money, and otherwise provide for colonizing free colored persons, with their own consent, at any place or places without the United States.”

        This proposed amendment tells us several things about Lincoln and his views on colonization. First, and most obviously, he supported it. Second, in contrast to pre-war plans for colonization that were based on the notion that all Blacks should be shipped out of the country, Lincoln’s plan called for voluntary colonization, an enormous difference. Third, it appears that Lincoln felt that Blacks and Whites could not co-exist together in a state of equality.

        But, in light of his subsequent actions, several questions arise. Did his plan, in conjunction with his proposals for compensation emancipation (which he must have known were unacceptable to the slaveholders, both in the slave states that stayed in the Union and those that didn’t) really represent his views? Some historians, engaged in mind reading of the dead, think that Lincoln didn’t take his proposals seriously, but brought them forth to placate those in the North, who would be uncomfortable with the thought of lots of freed slaves running around. See, yes we’re freeing them, but also getting rid of them. In effect, these historians are accusing Lincoln of being duplicitous. However, if we are to assume Lincoln was serious about his colonization plan then we can only conclude that Lincoln was appallingly ignorant about the desires of freed slaves.

        It is well documented that by 1864 Lincoln had undergone a transformation in his thinking. Even if he toyed with some colonization plans, he certainly had to realize that a mass, VOLUNTARY exodus of millions of freed slaves was a delusion. I am admittedly speculating, but the plans that he toyed with near the end of his life could have been to accommodate the handful of free slaves that desired to leave the country. Now, Lincoln pushed for an amendment (the 13th) that would abolish slavery with no mention of compensation. He also argued for giving some Blacks the right to vote. Lincoln’s public policy in the last years of his life was much more important than making a big deal out of some schemes, even if they had been implemented, would have had no effect on the overwhelming majority (almost all of them) that wished to remain in the country.

        1. General Butler, who met with Lincoln in the White House on April 11, 1865, reported at least twice that Lincoln had him calculate the number of ships necessary to colonize (deport and resettle) all the United State’s African-Americans to places in the Caribbean. Butler says he replied that, because of the growth rate of the Black population, removal would not be possible with the then available naval resources of the nation. Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward and his Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles a decade later wrote that up until his death Lincoln never abandoned his dream and project of emancipation and resettlement. These two Lincoln administration figures use the term “deportation” in their descriptions, although Lincoln viewed resettlement to be “voluntary”, but perhaps requiring a little coercion.

          1. I am guessing that your views on Lincoln and colonization in regard to the purported Benjamin Butler meeting with Lincoln shortly before his death is based on the work of Phillip W. Magness. I thank you for bringing this incident to my attention. As I result, I have come across Magness’ very long article in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association of Winter 2008. Here is Magness’ evaluation of the meeting, which includes his observation that much of what Butler wrote, many years later than the meeting, is suspect. He concludes:

            “The present inquiry set out to provide a firmer basis for evaluating Butler’s colonization anecdote by resolving the issue of its reported timeline. Though established in date, the anecdote leaves many additional questions unanswered and provides room for further examination of an underexplored area of Lincoln’s presidency. As the full conversation between Butler and Lincoln was known only to its participants, one of them assassinated only three days later and the other writing of it twice several decades after the fact, a comprehensive and unbiased record of its events is unlikely ever to emerge. What is certain is that a private meeting in 1865 between Butler and Lincoln occurred. The details of this meeting, as conveyed by Butler, exhibit duly acknowledged signs of embellishment and the distorting effects of their distance from the event itself. Beginning with the meeting’s known date though, the two Butler accounts deserve greater attention than they have received. Sufficient evidence exists to merit additional consideration of Lincoln’s colonization views later in life, and tends to caution against the conclusiveness that many scholars have previously attached to the view that Lincoln fully abandoned this position. The Butler anecdote remains an imperfect example, yet some of its more plausible details may indicate that Lincoln retained an interest in colonization, even if limited, as late as 1865.”

            So, Magness believes that the Butler meeting actually took place although his timeline is wrong. And it is possible that both talked about colonization. Magness believes that what may have been discussed is enough to justify further research as to whether in fact Lincoln had abandoned colonization by the last year of his life. Thus, what you take as fact is really speculative.


            1. Lincoln’s Secretary of State Wm. Seward and his Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles declared in the late 1870s that Lincoln linked emancipation with colonization (voluntary or lightly coerced deportation of Blacks) and that he still hadn’t abandoned the idea up until the time of his assassination.
              Little phrases in Lincoln’s more racist declarations, and his seeming worship of Harvard biologist Louis Agassiz, make me suspect that the man was at heart an adherent of scientific racism, believed in cosmic progress, and viewed Black people as hierarchically less developed forms of mankind. It is well known from Herndon that Lincoln was enamored with Robert Chamber’s “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation”, quite possibly (I think) because of Chamber’s erroneous view that racial advancement (African stage –> Asian stage –> European stage, a transcendental type of ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny) was preserved in human embryos. Of course, people sucked up in the Lincoln Cult will have a hard time believing it.

    3. 1. We should [not] care at all what Hannah-Smith thinks about Lincoln and colonization except that the 1619 Project has done a very positive thing by rekindling public debate

      We should absolutely care, because when someone behaves that badly then none of their work should be trusted. Similar to what you do when you discover some researcher has committed fraud, you inspect all of her work (all. Not just the bit you found post-hoc revised), and you shift the burden of proof from “must show malfeasance or it’s okay” to “must show it’s solid or throw it out and never cite it.”

      I agree with your point 3. But I think you don’t use them to try and fix 1619 at this point. You take that set of scholars you’re talking about, and you start from the ground up. New name, new project, no connection to Hannah-Smith or her work. Maybe they emphasize that they’re starting from traditional, mainstream view of colonial to civil war era history and updating it, rather than stating they’re correcting what 1619 got wrong. And that group should specifically invite historian critics to participate, since if they don’t, they’re likely going to be met with skepticism and distrust.

      “Rekindling public debate…” doesn’t make bad work better. Heck, let’s grant that H-S has helpfully revealed an error in how other historians have covered the era. That’s a positive contribution, but it doesn’t mean her hypothesis on how to fix the error is necessarily good. This is the Lynn Margoulis or Linus Pauling lesson; making a remarkable contribution in one way doesn’t mean your next thing is remarkable.

      1. I cannot disagree with you more in regard to the Hannah-Jones (not Smith) essay for the 1619 Project. I have discussed the 1619 Project in depth in other comments over the years. I will simply say that although she made errors, less than some attempt to show, the essay was in no way as distorted as the fairy tale history so often taught in the schools. Some of her more controversial statements, such as that the American Revolution was fought in part to protect slavery, is a matter of intense controversy among scholars of the period. It is the job of real historians to dissect and debate the essay. This debate is highly salutary and has helped to debunk the fairy tale history of the United States peddled by Lost Cause ideologues. So, you can criticize Hannah-Jones and the NYT all you like, but the 1619 Project has performed a public service in assisting historians in getting out the message as to realities of American history, which so vexes the right wing.

    4. “… the 1619 Project has done a very positive thing by rekindling […] awareness ”

      The meaning of “awareness” and especially “rekindling awareness” (usually described as “raising” awareness) is unclear to me. What does that mean? To have “raised awareness”? And what does it mean to give specific credit for such a thing?

      What other examples of awareness-raising do we have to evaluate the significance of the awareness-raising?

      Are some examples to be excluded because it is not the right kind of awareness-raising?

    5. I find it interesting that N H-J responds to a serious scholarly response to the 1619 Project with a rude gesture. (Apparently. I am not conversant in “urban” gestures.)

      And she responds to other scholarly criticism with credential measuring (which she loses spectacularly). (Did she check at all before firing off her comments?)

      This makes it hard to take her seriously. It also fits with the woke play-book. (Reality is whatever you say it is.)

      Has she made any real response to the 1776 Project?

  6. That gesture, so to speak, that Nikole Hannah-Jones makes in that photo is essentially a kind of hip-hop version of “F*** You”.

    Keep in mind that its target was, I believe, largely a group of Black scholars.

    She is worth following on Twitter to see the piques, insults, blockings of people who argue with her ideas, erasures of tweets, and sundry drama.

    1. BTW, weren’t the people who Lincoln thought about exporting freedmen? And the exporting would take place if they agreed to it?

      Is that correct?

    2. I’m sorry if I keep harping on this, but I really think that immaturity is a key to understanding many of the attitudes and behaviors of the progressive, easily-offended PC/Woke set. Again I reference and endorse Ayishat Akanbi’s diagnosis:
      Hannah-Jones strikes me as a big baby.

      1. Yes, however, I think there is chic in a certain immaturity, coupled with the otherwise dry, reclusive, or obscure (by nature) interests (academic history), in the persona which Hannah-Jones is going for – an attitude, for the side-by-side comparison of the output (indisputably clearly articulate material) with the persona…

        … so, showmanship, I’d say – a hip immaturity., that might evince a smile or guffaw from the audience.

    3. Based on the notion that because you can afford a gold ‘grill’ to replace the teeth you failed to look after you have more wealth than those you insult. How that is a proper reply to criticisms of the 1619 Project is something you will have to take up with her (which might get you a further lesson in rude gestures!)

  7. I can’t remember the book I read about this but maybe Historian knows it. Anyway, probably 1862 Lincoln invited Frederick Douglas and some other Black leaders to the White House for a meeting. During the meeting Lincoln brought up his ideas on colonialism, moving X-slaves out of the U.S. At first they were a bit speechless but then informed Lincoln there was no chance of that idea being something they were in favor of. So he got it from the horses mouth so to speak. They saw no way this was a good idea. Lincoln was reminded most slaves had been here their entire lives and had no desire to be shipped anywhere. After this reaction from the Black leaders, Lincoln kind of dropped the idea as i recall.

    1. The incident you are referring to took place on August 14, 1862, and Douglass was not in attendance, although he disapproved of Lincoln’s colonization scheme. Many different sources discuss this meeting. Lincoln continued to advocate for colonization at least through December 1862 when he proposed to Congress an elaborate plan. In the last years of the war, Douglass became much favorable to Lincoln. Here is an article that discusses the relationship between Douglass and Lincoln.

      1. Thanks, I’m glad I wasn’t dreaming it. I think the fact that Lincoln had these leaders invited to the White House and threw this subject out to them tells us something about Lincoln and the whole idea of colonialism. He did not look at the idea as a racist, he actually thought is was a way to deal with the black/white problem. Until he actually asked black people about it, he did not know they would take offense to it. Many white people like Lincoln going all the way back to Jefferson were big on this colonialism. Yes, it was a stupid idea and would never work but if people just look at it from a 21st century point of view, they do not learn much.

      2. As an outsider to the colonization debate… how crazy was this, at the time?

        I know that approximately everyone Lincoln knew would have had a family history involving moving to another continent to start a new settlement in the wilderness because they didn’t like their previous rulers. They were proud of this story. I imagine most would have ranked a disagreement over the manner in which to worship Christ as being a smaller matter than having being enslaved.

        He may also have known that, within his lifetime, the Boers had decided to move to another part of Africa to start a new settlement in the wilderness because they didn’t like their previous rulers. (Again with disagreements over Christ, and over which germanic tongue to speak, and maybe slavery?) So it wasn’t impossible. And it was something groups of people still desired to do, sometimes. Depending which figures you believe, sub-Saharan Africa may have had about the same population as the US, over several times as much land. It was not very crowded.

        Of course viewed from 2021, the thought of moving from a country where the poor are overweight and have air conditioning to, well, Liberia is not going to find many takers. But this is with hindsight — the great divergence in the development of different places is something we don’t have a great explanation for.

        1. Re: Your last paragraph.

          If the USA were really the racist dystopia that the Woke portray it as, why isn’t the flow of “black and brown people” out of the USA? Certainly they have plenty of options.

          Why were 40,000 people per year (almost all “black and brown”), in an average year, risking their lives and life savings to cross into the USA? (There are far more than this number trying in 2021.)

          People vote with their feet.

    2. This is the meeting where Lincoln spoke to a group of five prominent Black citizens of Washington-DC, and, to their face, and in the presence of journalists, repeatedly insulted and degraded them and their race. Here are three Lincoln quotes that capture the tone of his prepared address: 1) “We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.” 2) “But even when you cease to be slaves, you are yet far removed from being placed on an equality with the white race. . . . [N]ot a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours.” 3) “[F]or your race among us there could not be war, although many men engaged on either side do not care for you one way or the other.” In summary, Lincoln followed the line of Philadelphia “Scientific Racism” of Black inferiority and accused Black people of being the causing the Civil War to boot. Lincoln at the event did not allow the Black invitees to comment. Five months later Lincoln authorized the financing of colonization (deportation) of 550 northern free Black people to found an agricultural colony — to grow cotton — in Haiti, where they would surrender their right to reside in America and be given Haitian citizenship. The group, which would be the first of 5000 “volunteers”, set sail for the Caribbean in April, 1863. The enterprise failed, and the approximately 450 survivors were brought back in early 1865. No monuments were built for the 100 Black people who died.

  8. One really sad aspect to all this is a real history-respecting, rules-of-science-respecting, academically respectable retelling of history like 1619 purports to be badly needed to be written. Now it is unlikely to be done right for perhaps a generation or so.

  9. The 1619 Project is polemic, not history. What is important is what the goal of the polemic is, and the fact that Hannah-Jones seeks to dismiss her critics for being white says enough.

  10. About AIER. In 1961 I won a small ($25/year) college scholarship from AIER. I know nothing about the organization’s current positions, but back then it was far to the right. Gold bugs too.

  11. I’ve read not a little, but haven’t read near enough of what Hannah-Jones has said/read. I wonder what her take is on the state of things upon the establishment of Jamestown (VA) 1607, twelve years prior to 1619. In her view did nothing of note happen then? Or upon the founding of St. Augstine (FL) in 1665 by the Spanish? Did the Spanish not impose slavery?

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