In August of 2019, the New York Times audaciously debuted a searing initiative with the brazen intent to rewrite the American story through the narrow lens of slavery, a series of essays entitled the 1619 Project. After paraded as a bold banner of intersectional pride by the Left and its ignorant premises scorched by the Right, the project has resurfaced after months, having won a Pulitzer Prize to add to its name. For the flagship essay “Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals Were False When They Were Written. Black Americans Have Fought to Make Them True”, the Pulitzer Prize committee validates the incredibly dangerous thesis tucked into the notions presented by the project-history can and should be distorted according to current biases and passions, in this case following an intersectional lens, ultimately redefining the structure of history itself.
The project itself doesn’t pretend to be anything besides a crude revision of the origins of America, the core aspect of nationally unifying pride. Named for the 400th Anniversary of the first slave ships that arrived in the budding nation, the project hides their true, deeply mistargeted intentions behind a cheap veil of education of the brutalities involved in slavery and the promotion of anti-racist rhetoric. Though a noble intent if honest, the project instead sidesteps offering effective and essential educational pieces targetted towards those without a thorough comprehension of the horrors of slavery for spewing general and pointless accusations of racism towards the essential principles of America to demonstrate “that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery”, a wildly clueless allegation.
Firstly, the blatant historical inaccuracies pop right off the pages of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ prize-winning essay. Claiming that “Slavery in the Colonies faced no immediate threat from Great Britain, so colonists wouldn’t have needed to secede to protect it” as though the Revolutionary War had been fought over the institution of slavery and criticizing the lack of condemnation of slavery within the Constitution, Hannah-Jones ignores the historical facts in, something often swept aside, how contentious slavery was for the Framers. Understandably the paradox of how a nation that bled for liberty denied the same for slaves entangles those without proper historical context.
In reality, without the horrific preservation of slavery, no southern states would have been willing to join the budding Union, thus preventing prohibition or even minor limitations on slavery. Because of this, the options before the Framers then transitioned away from slavery versus no slavery and into slavery versus no union and potentially courting territory wars while losing all influence over the south, a deathblow in the struggle against slavery. At least with the south’s representation in the union, slavery could still be challenged. Similarly, another grave historical misconception of the ? Compromise finds its intended purpose here. Instead of commentary on the merit of the slaves’ humanity, it aimed to decrease southern influence in Congress to, hopefully, rid the nation of its darkest sin. All of which will eventually be achieved.
Even in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson lambasted King George III for the presence of slavery in the young union, stating “He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.” Citing the Framers as pro-slavery or even not anti-slavery insultingly misconstrues their political bargaining as their moral compasses.
Inconsistency and imperfections weigh heavy on the human soul and to assume the Framers as an exception simply to castigate their unavoidable inconsistencies and imperfections is morally reprehensible and Hannah-Jones failed to represent the Framers’ intentions in a sincere manner, immediately and entirely dismissing her account.
But beyond targetted factual errors that spill the true intent of the project, the premises asserted by this project carry little historical weight and should be discounted as an impudent misread of American history. For much of the Left as exemplified in this project, the American story follows an irredeemably bigoted society built on racism steadily grow into a global plague of injustices, suffocating all except the dreaded white man based upon intersectional standards. That no good and true values inspire the Consitution and slavery drove American exceptionalism.
Rather, the historical reality tells the American story as a flawed human nature constructing ideal society underneath universally good principles and repeatedly failing to live up to them yet repeatedly striving to come ever close to achieve them. While slavery will always be an ugly scar from the very worst of American history, allowing racism or bigotry to become the definition all of American history and the ideas held within the Consitution misses the very heart of America-All men are created equal. Regardless of the deficiencies of its creators, these assumptions ring eternally true. Even Frederick Douglass hailed the Constitution as a “glorious liberty document” that contains principles “entirely hostile to the existence of slavery.”
Obviously, this project set out to prove a political point over an honest retelling adhering to historical accuracy. An uneducated point, yes, but the notions slipped in that allow the point to even be made should not be taken lightly. The 1619 Project relies on the sacrifice of historical truth in return for supplementation of the New York Times’ anti-American biases, insinuating a rejection of objective history itself to string a grand intersectional narrative serving identity politics instead of intellectual honesty.
If history ceases to remain objective, then history becomes mangled projections of one’s owns passions and biases, employing incongruent and cherry-picked evidence to squeeze out narratives where none exists. This cuts directly against conservatism as an inclination, which demands reason and reality to manage untethered passion. Since based on reliance on objective historical truths, history and conservatism cannot exist without each other. As a balancing force against corrosive radical progressivism, conservatism wields history as an essential roadmap, stifling blind and foolish leaps into the future utilizing historical truths. However, when history ceases to remain objective and shifts towards passions, conservatism dies.
Worse yet, if history is decided to be malleable, then the question of who then decides history threatens the very foundations of our republic, as this would largely fall out of the hands of the people and instead into the hands of faceless bureaucrats with strong enough influence over the media and educational systems. Once historical truth loses objectivity and becomes but another tool of manipulation and deceit, free society disintegrates under the ironclad grip of the Ministry of Truth.
Therefore, sentiments of American exceptionalism and a collective love of our true history must persist as the sole unifier of the nation to prevent a malicious revisionist history from rotting the American spirit and reinstate historical truth. With liberty comes inevitable dissonance. Due to the unrivaled diversity of a nation infused with countless heritages, America has few mutual connections. We can’t even agree on a basic respect for the Presidency. For a nation so exceptionally free, our various pursuits leave little to unify under, amplifying the obligation of unification underneath the only aspect we need to share-a patriotic love of America. The unmitigated importance of such must rise in the face of attacks like this, which aim to dismantle America at the demands of an intersectional vision, commandeered by shameful identity politics.
Few other nations understand their origins as thoroughly and as deeply as the United States and none should rival our pride in our history. America cannot be limited to a physical nation but a powerful egalitarian philosophy built on equality, liberty, and natural rights discernable by reason under a limited government designed to secure such rights, arranging a Constitution for the freest and most just society in human history as a product of an explosive philosophical revolution.
The 1619 Project, among less dramatic attempts to reinterpret American history, exists only to restructure the nature of history to provide an opportunity for unprecedented power grabs in America and, in the process, shame American exceptionalism and patriotism into compliance under the intersectional overlords.
Winning a Pulitzer perilously adds a degree of academic prestige to the misshapen interpretation of American history of the 1619 Project, one that, if left unchecked, could readily replace the historically true and universally good story of America. The stakes of the Left’s unabashed rejection imperil the American spirit itself.