If You’re Going to Challenge the 1619 Project, Don’t Do It This Way
Conservatives’ “1776 Project” sounds a lot like Bill Cosby’s pound cake speech all over again
Black history is always American history, but American history is not always Black history, and our annual, month-long tip of the hat in February has yet to make this any less true. It takes pointed and sustained efforts for such work to make any discernible impact on the American psyche beyond a news cycle. Which is why, when the New York Times launched the 1619 Project in August 2019, commemorating the 400-year anniversary of Africans arriving at these shores for the express purpose of enslavement, it felt utterly unprecedented.
Here was America’s most storied newspaper doubling down on Black history — outside of February, no less — with a wealth of resources ranging from historical analysis to art, with the express purpose of amplifying that history beyond soundbites. It is a still-unfolding commitment bordering on covenant, seeking to move the needle on the “race conversation” people are always saying they want to have.
Naturally, the effort received some criticism.
Much of it came from conservative pundits and politicians like Newt Gingrich, who called it “propaganda.” The grievances in many of these cases have less to do with the 1619 Project’s historical merits than its political conclusions and cultural implications. The idea of America and the reality have always been in conflict; most arguments about the nature of the U.S. stem from a difference of opinion on how much the scales tip in favor of one plate over the other.
If one approaches the 1619 Project like a conversation instead of a doctrine, it becomes easier to see how such a catalog of ideas can be used productively. Yet, the 1776 Project has sought simply to hot-take it to death.
Yet, the most odious criticism to date is the newly launched 1776 Project, a half-baked effort to create a…