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History professor under attack from peers for taking stance against 1619 Project curriculum

A history professor who urged K-12 superintendents in his state against implementing the 1619 Project curriculum has come under heavy fire from peers who have attacked and vilified him.

Jay Bergman, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, wrote to the state’s superintendents earlier in the year asking them to not embed the curriculum, saying it “presents America’s history as driven, nearly exclusively, by white racism” and that “nearly everything else in the 1619 Project, is entirely false, mostly false, or misleading.”

The New York Times’ controversial 1619 Project argues that the American Revolution was fought largely to maintain slavery in America and that Abraham Lincoln was racist, and a curriculum supporting those arguments is being used in school districts across the nation.

Bergman’s letter did not raise eyebrows and ire, however, until it was featured in May by NBC Connecticut, which reported at least one superintendent found the letter’s contents troubling and “extremely inappropriate” that Bergman used his CCSU email system for his memo.

In the weeks since the NBC report, Bergman has become a target for scorn, ridicule and ad hominem attacks.

Some professors at his university demanded he be officially censured, sanctioned or publicly repudiated. Others called him a racist. Bergman’s writings as a conservative scholar also came under the radar, with his peers bristling at and bemoaning his stances on other subjects as well.

“The nastiest of these by far was Jerold Duquette’s … which in merely four paragraphs, managed to include twelve pejoratives in his feverish denunciation of my views, my intelligence, and my integrity,” Bergman told The College Fix.

In demanding action against Bergman, his peers used an administrative tactic, arguing he should not have used his CCSU email to contact the superintendents.

“In all, faculty in 12 academic departments attacked me, some more than once, for my letter to superintendents,” Bergman told The College Fix. “This does not include my own faculty union, the executive committee of which denounced me formally as a racist. In none of the attacks was any empirical evidence provided to substantiate them.”

“I was also denounced by six of the twelve active members of my own department,” he said, adding “one of whom … at a department meeting, called me a racist to my face.”

While Bergman does not face discipline, the attacks represent “a study in academic cancel culture,” wrote National Association of Scholars President Peter Wood.

“Bergman is tenured, and to that extent protected, from the reprisals of his unhappy colleagues. But he is not protected from what we have learned to call a ‘hostile work environment,'” Wood wrote.

“The most striking things about these statements [against Bergman] are their nastiness and their emptiness. Bergman is accused of racism, explicitly by some, implicitly by others. This is a gross ad hominem attack, based on less than nothing,” Wood wrote.

“Bergman is a strong proponent of racial equality—he just happens to be living at a time when progressive opinion has swung against racial equality and in favor of racial ‘equity,’ which is another way of saying racial division and race-based favoritism.”

Bergman said the attacks have affected him.

“Because I am a tenured full professor, my employment at CCSU is reasonably secure. But to say that, after 31 years of loyal and dedicated service to the institution as a teacher and scholar whose books have been published by several of the most prestigious university presses in the world, I am disenchanted with the moral and intellectual caliber of my attackers would be an understatement,” he told The Fix.

“Notwithstanding the university’s public commitment to ‘diversity,’ it is obvious that faculty there will not tolerate any deviation from a radical political orthodoxy and that anyone who does so is not only wrong but evil,” Bergman said.

“The sheer nastiness of the attacks was matched only by the absence of any reasoned, factually corroborated refutation. Bear in mind that my original letter to superintendents said not a word about CCSU or its faculty.”

MORE: Scholars slam New York Times’ 1619 Project: ‘So wrong in so many ways’

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.