The New York Times’ 1619 Project attempts to recast all of American history as centered on slavery. In this discussion with NAS Research Director David Randall, Professor Lucas Morel of Washington and Lee University critiques the lead piece of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones’ essay “Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals were False When They Were Written. Black Americans have Fought to Make Them True,” as misinformed about America’s founders and Abraham Lincoln.
Morel, a Lincoln scholar, emphasizes the value of reading original texts written by the historical figures in question. In speaking about Lincoln, Morel argues that “The best indication of what somebody thinks is what they say and write...that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t judge what they said by what they did, but we need to first understand their mind. The best revelation of that is in what they wrote.”
Morel also describes the way the “1619 Project view” of American history has affected American culture and students, and how to counter it.
0:00 David Randall introduces the NAS’s 1620 Project and his guest, Professor Lucas Morel.
3:02 Morel introduces his disagreements with Nikole Hannah-Jones’ lead essay of the New York Times’ 1619 Project.
5:43 Morel describes two primary problems with the essay: its unceasingly critical characterization of the American founding and of Abraham Lincoln.
8:05 What makes attacking the founders necessary? Morel points to Hannah-Jones’ zero-sum game: to elevate blacks, you must tear down whites.
13:38 Harvard’s Danielle Allen is an American historian who may have a more balanced perspective on these issues.
16:21 Were there significant, reasonable impediments the founders faced in abolishing slavery? Hannah-Jones says no; Morel says yes.
23:58 How have the ideas promoted by the 1619 Project affected American K-12 teaching materials?
27:52 Morel identifies some quality curricula for teaching the history of slavery and the American founding.
31:27 How do you approach teaching your college students who come in with a “1619 Project” view of history?
41:59 What led Morel to spend his career studying Lincoln and the founders?
46:19 How does Morel teach the lovability of America to his students?
48:46 What would Lincoln tell us to do to prevent the “1619 Project” view of history from becoming widely accepted?
Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals were False When They Were Written. Black Americans have Fought to Make Them True,” New York Times, 14 August 2019.
Lucas Morel, “America Wasn’t Founded on White Supremacy,” The American Mind, 17 October 2019.