The 1619 Project

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The 1619 Project is an in-depth historical work that aims to retrace the origin of the United States to the introduction of slavery. It originated with a special issue of The New York Times Magazine published in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved black people arriving on what is now U.S. land. Since then, it has been spun off into books and educational curricula, and it has sparked debate among genuinely concerned historians obsessed with academic rigor and disingenuously concerned conservatives obsessed with whitewashing history.


The 1619 Project includes the following media:

  • A special issue of The New York Times Magazine published August 18, 2019[1]
  • A five-episode podcast[2]
  • The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, a 2021 companion book that is a collection of essays connecting slavery to various other aspects of American society, law, and culture, ranging from inheritance laws, self-defense laws, traffic infrastructure, and even music.

New York Times editor Jake Silverstein has stated that the goal of the project is to redefine the birth of the U.S. to "the date when the first enslaved Africans arrived in the English colonies that would become the United States — August of 1619."[3]

Critical response[edit]


Because the 1619 Project has brought to prominence a new angle to U.S. history that until then had seldom been discussed, the project attracted debate and criticism across the political spectrum. Conor Friersdorf in The Atlantic reported that criticism of "1619" came from both the left (World Socialist Web Site) and right (City Journal).[4][5][6]

One of the more controversial claims made by the project is that slavery was a primary reason behind the American Revolution. For World Socialist, historian Gordon Wood disputed the "1619" claim that colonists wanted independence from Britain in order to preserve slavery.[4] On the right, City Journal published an article calling the 1619 Project a "polemic" with an agenda to "tarnish capitalism by associating it with slavery."[4]

The NYT responds[edit]

In the preface to The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story anthology, project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote:

The assertions about the role slavery played in the American Revolution shocked many of our readers. But these assertions came directly from academic historians who had been making this argument for decades. Plainly, the historical ideas and arguments in the 1619 Project were not new. We based them on the wealth of scholarship that has redefined the field of American history since at least the 1960s … What seemed to provoke so much ire was that we had breached the wall between academic history and popular understanding…[7][note 1]

NYT editor Jake Silverstein responded to claims about the 1619 Project being revisionist history:

Given the space constraints, “true founding” was a way to summarize the “birth” metaphor that appeared here and there throughout the print edition — such as in a sentence in my editor’s note that read: “The goal of The 1619 Project, a major initiative from The New York Times that this issue of the magazine inaugurates, is to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year. Doing so requires us to place the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are as a country.”[3]

Over-the-top reactions[edit]

Predictably, conservatives who desire a jingoistic view of American history made some of the more ridiculous, over-the-top reactions, some of which were ad hominems. For instance, Erick Erickson accused 1619 Project contributors of "[profiting] from stoking and fueling racial grievances."[12]

In July 2020, U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (Republican of Arkansas, formerly part of the Confederate States of America) introduced a bill that would revoke federal funding from public schools that included the 1619 Project in curricula.[13] Even with a Republican president and Senate majority at the time, that bill went nowhere, given that the biggest legislative priorities at the time was combating the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession.

See also[edit]


  1. The 'popular understanding' of slavery in the 1950s-1970s was still being promoted in public school textbooks via ahistorical Lost Cause of the South ideology.[8][9][10][11]


  1. The New York Times Magazine dated August 18, 2019 as reprinted by the Pulitzer Center
  3. 3.0 3.1 Silverstein, Jake (October 16, 2020). "On Recent Criticism of The 1619 Project". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved March 12, 2022. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Friedersdorf, Conor (January 6, 2020). "1776 Honors America’s Diversity in a Way 1619 Does Not". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on July 16, 2020. Retrieved March 12, 2022. 
  5. The 1619 Project and the falsification of history: An analysis of the New York Times’ reply to five historians by David North & Eric London (28 December 2019) World Socialist Web Site.
  6. Preaching a Conspiracy Theory: The 1619 Project offers bitterness, fragility, and intellectual corruption—not history. by Allen C. Guelzo (December 8, 2019) City Journal.
  7. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. New York: One World. 2021. ISBN 978-0-593-23057-2. pp. xxv-xxvi.
  8. Glenn Youngkin’s No-Guilt History of Virginia for Fragile White People by Dana Milbank (February 1, 2022) The Washington Post.
  9. Virginia: History, Government, Geography by Francis B. Simkins, Spotswood H. Jones, and Sidman P. Poole (1964) Scribner. Revised edition.
  10. Textbook Can Teach Us About Today's Textbook Fight by Nathan Bernier (November 16, 2016 at 5:52 PM CST) KUT.
  11. The History of Texas by Emma Mae Brotze & A. E. Lehmberg (1954) Noble and Noble.
  12. Charles, J. Brian (August 20, 2019). "The New York Times 1619 Project is reshaping the conversation on slavery. Conservatives hate it.". Vox. Retrieved March 12, 2022. 
  13. Gehlen, Bobby (July 24, 2020). "Sen. Tom Cotton bill would prohibit federal funding for teaching The 1619 Project". ABC News. Retrieved March 12, 2022.