History is already written. It happened. History books are merely the effort by people to discover the facts and understand the complex unfolding of the tapestry of human existence.
I am a lifelong consumer of history. I tend to drift through eras and will read multiple books on a subject before moving onto something else. I especially love period books. For example, I have a WWI history book that was written in 1919. It reads like the era it was written in – full of nationalism, bigotry, and ignorance of things that would not be known for many years after the book was written. When reading history, it is always important to remember that whatever you are reading was written by a person. That person has a perspective, a work ethic (or lack thereof), an ax to grind, a purpose for devoting years of their life to the narrative, and is bound by the social and information limitations of their own time and culture. Reading Dodge is very different than Toland who is very different than Tacitus, but they all have their place in telling our human story.
The same is true for the people pushing The 1619 Project. They have a perspective. They also have several of their facts woefully wrong because they are pushing a specific agenda. As long as we understand that, reading their perspective can add to understanding. It is a shame that it takes a Brit to remind Americans of what their history really is and that it is still OK to be proud of our nation’s birth story.
The 1619 Project undoubtedly provides a huge amount of very important information about the history of American slavery and I would encourage people to read it.
But the central tenet of the main author’s belief is historically wrong, incredibly damaging, and it should not be part of any school curriculum.
American kids should not be told that their country’s great War of Independence was waged to maintain slavery.
That’s not why most colonists fought it; they fought it to end British colonial rule and establish the United States of America.
Young Americans should feel proud of that victory, not ashamed, and should be taught that their country began in 1776 with the glorious Declaration of Independence, not in 1619 with the ignominious arrival of slaves to Virginia.
To reframe the dismantling of British rule as a battle to maintain slavery in the way the NYT has done is not just misguided, it’s disgraceful.