In its crusade to remake America in its own progressive image, The New York Times ─ the leftist think tank that was once a newspaper ─ has launched the “1619 Project,” described as a “Major initiative observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
True, the first ship carrying African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619. And the enslavement of black Africans in America was surely a brutal and grave injustice and an undeniable, shameful truth of our history. But it by no means qualifies as the “very center” of our history, nor does that history need to be “reframed” by nearly 20 biased black intellectuals, academics, poets and artists who wrote 1619 Project essays in a special 100-page edition of the Times Sunday magazine.
Slavery wasn’t unique to America; it had a long worldwide history over the ages. Jews were enslaved in Egypt 3,500 years ago. And America’s Indian tribes enslaved their captives long before the Pilgrims arrived here (with no slaves) from Europe in the early 1600s.
The year 1619 wasn’t the founding of the United States of America. At that time we were still a colony of Britain under the control of King George III and his governors in the colonies appointed by the Crown and enforced by its Redcoat soldiers. Our nation’s actual founding started with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Revolutionary War that followed, the ratification of our Constitution in 1788 and the Bill of Rights in 1791.
The lead essayist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, made this assertion: “Conveniently left out of the founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” “Mythology” is her term for the objective presentation of history that doesn’t reflect her tortured thesis. But her assertion is preposterous. The Declaration includes a long list of “injuries, usurpations and the establishment of an absolute tyranny” that justified the dissolution of our political bond to Britain, including waging war against the colonies, taxation without representation, tariffs, trade embargoes, denial of trial by jury, and numerous others.
At the Constitutional Convention, our founders faced the daunting task of forging compromises on many contentious issues among the new states in the process of writing a document that could win ratification. The concept of Federalism, that is, the balance of power between state and federal governments was one of the biggest. Slavery, widely opposed in the north, was an intractable insistence of the southern states. There would have been no union if slavery were abolished in the Constitution. Abolition would come some 75 years later after a terrible Civil War and the addition of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
(I’d note that granting women the right to vote didn’t come until almost 150 years later in 1920 with the 19th Amendment. Not all things were culturally and politically doable at the nation’s founding. Creating a “more perfect union” is a work in progress.)
The central thesis of the 1619 Project is that our nation was founded on the backs of African slaves; that slavery is an indelible, original sin; and that its legacy is institutional racism that continues to condemn blacks to perpetual injustice. Oh, and that capitalism is unjust, too. That’s quite a mouthful and a gigantic stretch of the imagination. It’s the ultimate cop-out to excuse any individual who happens to be black from personal responsibility. And it’s a contrived self-serving narrative to advance the progressive “social justice” agenda that also comports with the ideology of The New York Times.
The undisclosed mission of the 1619 Project is to discredit the virtues, values and morality of America’s founders, our Constitution and the pride of Americans in our nation’s history and achievements which, though imperfect, are on balance arguably the greatest of any major society in history. The progressive remedy, as always, will be a limitless expansion of government into the economy and individual liberty, along with quotas, hiring mandates, wokeness indoctrination and financial reparations.
A Pulitzer Prize sought for The Times trophy case is in the bag. The Pulitzer Center is already preparing a 1619 Project student curriculum which will soon be put to work brainwashing your children in K-12 schools and colleges.
Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for CompleteColorado.com.