The 1619 Project

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The New York Times

The 1619 Project is a controversial collection of revisionist history developed by The New York Times to "reframe"[1] American history exclusively around slavery and racism. The project has received significant praise from Marxists, politicians, activists, and journalists, but consistent criticism from historians.

The 1619 Project is named after the tragic year slaves from Africa first arrived in Virginia, and its premise is that America’s 18th-century founders fought a revolution “to ensure that slavery would continue,” that slavery was part of “the brutality of American capitalism … low-road capitalism … winner-take-all capitalism … racist capitalism.”


The work has been roundly criticized,[2] including by prominent historians James Oakes of the City University of New York,[3] Gordon S. Wood of Brown University,[4] Victoria Bynum of Texas State University,[5] James McPherson of Princeton University,[6] Oxford historian Richard Carwardine,[7] and Sean Wilentz of Princeton University.[8]

Historian Leslie M. Harris has also criticized the project. Harris was one of the historians who was consulted by the Times during development of the 1619 Project. She wrote in Politico that despite her warnings as to the historical inaccuracy of the idea that the 13 colonies went to war to protect slavery, that the Times was more interested in its narrative than it was with the facts, so it ran with the story anyways.[9]

Another scholarly rebuke was from Princeton historian Allen Guelzo, who criticizes the misrepresentative 1619 Project, finding that it presents:

"slavery not as a blemish that the Founders grudgingly tolerated with the understanding that it must soon evaporate, but as the prize that the Constitution went out of its way to secure and protect. The Times presents slavery not as a regrettable chapter in the distant past, but as the living, breathing pattern upon which all American social life is based, world without end.” "The 1619 Project is not history: it is polemic, born in the imaginations of those whose primary target is capitalism itself and who hope to tarnish capitalism by associating it with slavery." [10]

Although multiple top historians pointed out glaring factual inaccuracies within days of its launch, their concerns were largely ignored by the NYT, except for one response from editor Josh Silverstein who essentially dismissed a letter sent by five of the historians mentioned above (professors Wilentz, McPherson, Oakes, Wood and Bynum). The letter, in part, pointed out factual errors and misleading commentary, and stated that every statement offered by the project to validate its allegation that the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain in order to ensure slavery would continue, was false. Historian Gordon Wood sent a follow-up letter to NYT editor Silverstein, with permission to publish it, but which never was.

In an email to the Daily Caller, James Oakes of the City University of New York affirmed that the NYT “has not addressed our many citations of factual errors” even after the letter was sent," and stated that “I am particularly distressed by Matt Desmond’s essay. It is based on a body of scholarship that has been subjected to severe criticism by experts in the field..from mainstream economists to Marxist sociologists." Desmond is a Princeton University sociologist who asserts that slavery is the foundation of capitalism, and that almost every modern business has flowed from it.[11][12]

The project has likewise received criticism among several politicians. Newt Gingrich called 1619 a 'lie', and compared the work to "brainwashing".[13]

Meanwhile in 1975 the future Democratic Vice President an presidential nominee Joe Biden stated,

“I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago."[14]


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