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Professors tell New York Times to correct the many errors in its 1619 Project

Five historians have written a letter to the editor to The New York Times telling the “newspaper of record” to correct the major and serious errors that riddle its 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project sought to “reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding,” due to the arrival in that year of 20 African slaves to a Virginia colony.

The correction request was signed by Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James McPherson and Sean Wilentz of Princeton University, James Oakes of the City University of New York and Gordon Wood of Brown University, reports The Washington Post.

Their letter was published shortly after The Wall Street Journal reported on several of those professors’ concerns about the project that had been circulating on social media.

The letter states in part:

These errors, which concern major events, cannot be described as interpretation or “framing.” They are matters of verifiable fact, which are the foundation of both honest scholarship and honest journalism. They suggest a displacement of historical understanding by ideology. Dismissal of objections on racial grounds — that they are the objections of only “white historians” — has affirmed that displacement.

On the American Revolution, pivotal to any account of our history, the project asserts that the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain “in order to ensure slavery would continue.” This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding — yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false. Some of the other material in the project is distorted, including the claim that “for the most part,” black Americans have fought their freedom struggles “alone.”

Still other material is misleading. The project criticizes Abraham Lincoln’s views on racial equality but ignores his conviction that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed universal equality, for blacks as well as whites, a view he upheld repeatedly against powerful white supremacists who opposed him. The project also ignores Lincoln’s agreement with Frederick Douglass that the Constitution was, in Douglass’s words, “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.” Instead, the project asserts that the United States was founded on racial slavery, an argument rejected by a majority of abolitionists and proclaimed by champions of slavery like John C. Calhoun.

Given that the 1619 Project is being developed into a book and student curriculum, the scholars state it is very important that these errors be amended to reflect an accurate history of America.

But The New York Times said no.

“New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein addressed each concern from the professors but stood firmly behind the reporting and declined to correct it,” the Post reports.

Read the letter to the editor in the Times and the Post’s coverage of it.

MORE: Cornell scholar cited in ‘1619’ series charged with fabricating quotes, evidence

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

MORE: He questioned accuracy of ‘1619 Project.’ A prof responded with ‘your mom.’

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