The 1619 Project

With The New York Times’ 1619 Project, there are questions raised regarding the significance of History in relation to America and enslavement. In addition to this with the claims made by the article can they be related to journalism or propaganda? With the project, there were claims which made Historians disagree with how factually correct the project was. This disagreement resulted in a letter being sent to the Times with four signatories: James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes. A professor by the name of Sean Wilentz wrote his own opinions on how the 1619 project was just a matter of facts. 

“Yet the subject, which connects the past to our current troubled times, remains too little understood by the general public. The 1619 Project proposed to fill that gap with its own interpretation. To sustain its particular take on an immense subject while also informing a wide readership is a remarkably ambitious goal, imposing, among other responsibilities, a scrupulous regard for factual accuracy.” 

After reading the project Sean Wilentz sought to put an end to it. With his use of words calling the project “a scrupulous regard for factual accuracy.” He is basically attacking the project entirely without having a genuine conversation with the writer of the article: Hannah-Jones. The New York times 1619 project is a work of journalism that aims to be supplement material for teaching students about slavery in America. Adam Serwer wrote within his writing: The Fight Over the 1619 Project Is Not About the Facts in response to Sean Wilentz’s actions towards the 1619 project that “The New York Times Magazine issue on slavery represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.” This “disagreement” seems to be connected to slavery, specifically with how much slavery contributed to America’s development. The issue with slavery is that it is not acknowledged enough, to the point where it becomes lost within America’s history. 

The problem with people like Sean Wilentz is that they may say that they acknowledge slavery and its contributions, they do this very subtly to give slavery little relevance with America. For example, the historians who sent the letter to the Times said: “We applaud all efforts to address the foundational centrality of slavery and racism to our history.”  It may seem like they are happy with the impact the 1619 project has had on the school curriculum within America but this is not at all the case. Following this within the letter it said that the project was reflecting “a displacement of historical understanding by ideology.” The historians behind the letter are criticizing the project. They say that the project is all ideas, ideas that go against the ideals behind politics within America. This dispute between The New York Times and other Historians has led to the 1619 project demonstrating how the American national identity is revered by liberals and conservatives. Adam Serwer touched on this idea in response to the scholars. He included Hannah-Jones words to defend her: “I think had any of the scholars who signed the letter contacted me or contacted the Times with concerns [before sending the letter], we would’ve taken those concerns very seriously. And instead, there was kind of a campaign to kind of get people to sign on to a letter that was attempting really to discredit the entire project without having had a conversation.” Adam Serwer does not attack Hannah-Jones for her work, he defends her because she was not wrong to talk non-factually about America and slavery. 

It is not a work of propaganda even though Sean Wilentz claimed it to be something that displays “No effort to educate the public in order to advance social justice can afford to dispense with a respect for basic facts.” Sean Wilentz views History as “a matter of facts.” He may be educated but I think he believes the project is a piece of propaganda. “In the long and continuing battle against oppression of every kind, an insistence on plain and accurate facts has been a powerful tool against propaganda.” Is using facts to check whether or not a piece of writing is propaganda a reliable tool? If writing goes against the known facts, does that make it wrong? If the 1619 project is trying to reframe Americain History with non-factual claims then it is wrong, but this is not the case. Sean Wilentz acted with the letter as if the project was framing American history wrongly but he did this (earlier said) without any communication between himself and Hannah-Jones. 

The 1619 project showed a darker side of America, one that many individuals were unaware of. The fact that Americans have not made as much progress as they think, and that black people will indefinitely struggle to understand what their rights are compared to the rights of a white American. This discussion now becoming a political one shows how the truth can be altered to sustain political ideals. When it comes to the discussion of slavery in American schools, it is all a deception of the truth to hide slavery’s significance. Slavery and its impact on America have been neglected for as long as colonists have existed. I think it is important to notice how when the significance of slavery in America is brought up within an article it can be viewed as propaganda or factually incorrect even when it is trying to bring out an issue that has been subtly neglected. The issue being that without black Americans and slavery, America would not have developed into the nation it is today


4 thoughts on “The 1619 Project”

  1. Hi Armaan! I agree that Sean Wilentz should have conversed with Hannah-Jones, rather than just sending the letter that seemed to be attempting to discredit her work. I also agree that discussions on slavery have been suppressed in American schools, and that it should become more of a priority. Great job on this post!

  2. Hi Armaan! I think the question “Is using facts to check whether or not a piece of writing is propaganda a reliable tool?” is very good because it is not usually the case that facts can diminish the effects of propaganda. It is a hard question because facts can be turned into propaganda by people with these intentions. I agree with you that ” the truth can be altered to sustain political ideals.” Good job!

  3. Hi Armaan! I agree with you that America wouldn’t have developed into the nation it is today without black Americans and slavery. I think it’s super important that more schools should be teaching their students about this topic. Great job!!

  4. Your introduction:×1056/crop;jpeg_quality=60;progressive.jpg

    You present your topic of debate, specific question, a light tough on the different sides, which blends into your first body paragraph. I also appreciate the excellent quote you used following that.

    Your quote sets the premise for the first paragraph, and in I wish in general everyone could write as clearly here as you did. I understand what will be discussed, who the players are.
    The next paragraph expertly builds off of the last, now discussing the merits and demerits off both sides of argument, yet you also leave open the big questions brought up in the article, which I like. This is engaging for the reader.

    The last paragraph you stay near to your original question, while also bringing up thought about the big questions in history your topic discusses. This is very hard to do, well done! Also, your procedure into analysis in this paragraph works very well to lead into your conclusion, I like the chronology.

    Your conclusion is good, the last two sentences work well to rap up your essay. I would suggest when you say “This discussion now becoming a political one…” to “…neglected for as long as colonists have existed,” that you put this in a separate paragraph near the beginning of your essay. The ideas you bring up are pertinent, they discuss well how ignorance is shared about slavery, they would be better to have been known earlier on and, they stray a little far from the questions you discussed in the rest of the essay.


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