The New York Times has launched their “1619 Project”– an examination and re-evaluation of the legacy of slavery in America. It’s leading proponent is NY Times reporter Hannah Nikole-Jones. A wide variety of historians, journalists, and other writers will contribute their research and commentaries.
I am always happy whenever anyone teaches on the brutal institution of slavery in America as well as in other cultures, and my hope is that this project will be an honest evaluation of the sins as well as redemptive victories of America as it relates to this horrible stain in our history.
Here are a few questions I will be asking as I read through this project:
1. Will the 1619 Project cover not only the history of slavery in what later became the United States, but also the same slavery in the Caribbean and South America? Will it compare abolition of slavery in the western hemisphere (discussing the elimination of slavery in the United States in 1865 as well as the elimination of slavery in Brazil in 1888)?
2. Does it show the role of black Africans as well as Native Americans in kidnapping their fellow Africans/Indians and selling them to Europeans, or will it simply paint all Europeans as enslavers of indigenous people?
3. Will it demonstrate that America’s founding was actually in 1607 at Jamestown, 12 years before the first Africans showed up, and that the other section of America–the Plymouth colony in 1620–was founded without slavery as an institution?
4. Will the project show that capitalism flourished in the non-slaveholding North, whereas the economy of the antebellum South was more akin to feudalism? Will it recognize that capitalism–the free exchange of goods and services– has lifted up more people (including all minorities) out of poverty than collectivism?
5. Does the project point out that the U.S. Constitution refers to slaves never as “property” but rather as “persons held in service” (a key distinction), and was the vehicle for ultimately banishing slavery in 1865?
6. Does it show the march of abolition in the U.S. (beginning with Vermont in 1777) led by the same people who wanted to form a new government independent of the British Crown? Will it show that by 1805 all of the North had abolished slavery, and that by 1860 most of the U.S. were free states?
7. Will it discuss how the Continental Congress (and later the U.S. Congress) passed resolutions opposing and later banning the importation of slaves?
8. Does this project demonstrate and discuss the merits of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and its permanent ban on slavery in all the northwest territories (stretching from Ohio to Wisconsin)? Will it prominently note that many of the same signers of the Declaration and later framers of the U.S. Constitution also agreed to this part of the NW Ordinance?
9. Is the goal of the 1619 Project to show the evil of slavery as well as America’s triumph over it? Or is the goal only to show the sin of America and to thus make the case that America from its inception is illegitimate?
I agree that America certainly failed in the importation and keeping of slavery as an institution.
I also believe that America certainly redeemed itself by eliminating it and providing the greatest political and economic freedoms to the greatest number of people in the history of the world.