Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) introduced legislation last week that would strip public school districts of their federal funding if they add The New York Times’s 1619 Project into their curricula. Cotton argued on the Senate floor that the piece – which argues that slavery was the principle reason for the founding of the United States of America – is bunk history layered with modern-day social justice theories that only serve to divide Americans along racial lines.
Apparently as an “argument” against this line of reasoning, 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones admitted this week that her pet project actually isn’t a work of history but rather one of journalism.
When first introduced, the Times framed the endeavor like this: “The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
But on Twitter, Hannah-Jones went out of her way to take the 1619 Project out of the realm of “history.”
“He is right: The fight over the 1619 Project is not about history. It is about memory,” she wrote. “I’ve always said that the 1619 Project is not a history. It is a work of journalism that explicitly seeks to challenge the national narrative and, therefore, the national memory. The project has always been as much about the present as it is the past.
“The crazy thing is, the 1619 Project is using history and reporting to make an argument,” she continued. “It never pretended to be a history. We explicitly state our aims and produced a series of essays. Critique was always expected, but the need to discredit it speaks to something else.”
In another tweet, she wrote: “Further, the curriculum is supplementary and cannot and was never intended to supplant US history curriculum (which is pretty terrible but none of these folks seem concerned about that.)Teachers have used it in English, social studies, art, foods classes.
“The fight here,” she continued, “is about who gets to control the national narrative, and therefore, the nation’s shared memory of itself. One group has monopolized this for too long in order to create this myth of exceptionalism. If their version is true, what do they have to fear of 1619?”
It’s difficult to even know how to counter this argument because there really IS no argument being made. The best we can tell, Hannah-Jones is basically saying: We (African-Americans) don’t really like the historical facts that have been presented to students for the last hundred years…so we’re just going to change them. If that’s an argument, it’s an awfully dangerous one.
Her last statement – that there is nothing to “fear” from the 1619 Project if American exceptionalism is true – is pure, disingenuous nonsense. We’re talking about feeding propaganda to kids whose only sense of truth and fiction is what their teachers tell them. Of course it’s a problem if we teach them lies about American history.
Even if we call it, ahem, “journalism.”