In a recent essay at American Greatness, NAS president Peter Wood draws out the type of discussion the New York Times and Nikole Hannah-Jones would like to have about the 1619 Project—essentially none. Since the Project’s publication, a bevy of historians have critiqued its aim of “recasting all of American history,” only to be all but completely ignored by the Times and the Project’s contributors.
Peter notes that since the Project’s release, Hannah-Jones has scheduled at least 40 speaking engagements. Of these, 18 are monologues, and the remaining 22 include other panelists and speakers. Only 3 of these feature trained historians. As Peter explains:
“The result is a series of overwhelmingly nonhistorical monologues and dialogues designed to achieve an overtly historical end. . . . This is not to imply that nonhistorians cannot contribute to the historical discourse, but rather that an unambiguously historical project ought prominently to feature historians.”
The New York Times has continuously cast historical criticisms by the wayside, explaining that “Historical understanding is not fixed.” Yet, even their desire to “expand the reader’s sense of the American past” can’t bring them to have a discussion with critical historians. “Why are they so afraid?,” asks Peter.
“If the writers of The 1619 Project are concerned with earnestly presenting a new historical theory, then they should gladly accept scrutiny and critique from credible sources. This is how history works, to separate truth from falsehood. Instead, Hannah-Jones leapfrogs straight from historical theory to established fact. The 1619 Project is not concerned with uncovering historical truths, but instead uses pseudo-history as a means to undermine rational, non-partisan historical inquiry.
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Nikole Hannah-Jones should step up, be courageous, and debate the historians with whom she disagrees. They’re waiting. All historical claims, particularly those with as wide-reaching and radical ramifications as these, must be discussed and scrutinized by trained scholars. The failure to engage in this way will result in the widespread proliferation of lies that have disastrous consequences for the future of our country.”