Universities Are Complicit in 1619 Project’s Disgusting Swindle

The backers of the New York Times’ 1619 Project don’t believe their hate-reading of American history can stand up to examination in the light of day. That’s the only conclusion to be drawn from their full flight from critics across the political spectrum.

Proponents of the 1619 Project—believers that the real founding of the country came with the landing of African slaves in Jamestown in 1619—are determined to foist their ideas on children who don’t have enough information to argue back. They’ll force teachers to teach its falsehoods as the only acceptable history. They’ll arrange “dialogues” throughout the nation, where their advocates say six sorts of nonsense and their carefully selected “interlocutors” reply, You’re so very right! But they’ll never allow for an open debate against an informed opponent.

They know the arguments behind the 1619 Project would fall to pieces if they did. So they carefully arrange matters so that no one ever gets a chance to say that the emperor has no clothes.

The role of the New York Times in foisting this trumpery on the nation is shameful enough. The Pulitzer Center’s role in creating curricula based on this farrago is worse still. Google’s algorithmic suppression of the 1619 Project’s critics is downright alarming. But the role of the universities is the most disgraceful, because they’re supposed to be dedicated to rigorous inquiry and intellectual freedom. Instead, they’ve made themselves handmaidens of deceit.

Consider the speaking tours of Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Greta Thunberg of the 1619 Project. Wherever she goes—Columbia University, Hampton University, Howard University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia—she speaks alone or secures people for the stage who cheer her on. The University of Virginia is typical. It says she’ll be taking part in an “honest dialogue” about the 1619 Project, but an “honest dialogue” means a face on the stage to say “Amen.”

Everyone knows that in college today they call lectures and group manifestos “conversations,” where the only allowed conclusion is to agree with the latest social justice fanatic with a microphone. The universities are doing all they can to make Hannah-Jones the poster child of modern academic “conversation”—the monologue that doesn’t end until you give in.

So far as I can tell, Hannah-Jones hasn’t yet sat down on a stage with someone who knows American history, knows she’s peddling nonsense about race in America, and has the facts on hand to prove it. If ever Hannah-Jones did, with the cameras running, every American would find out the 1619 Project is a combination of half-truths, distortions, and outright falsehoods.

Of course Hannah-Jones doesn’t welcome pushback. But we expect better of our universities. They shouldn’t give their intellectual and moral authority to her gimcrack wares.

Their authority matters. The New York Times created the 1619 Project, the Pulitzer Center crafted curricula around it, and now boards of education around the country are foisting it on our children. They don’t bother opening up the matter to popular discussion—they just impose the changes.

School districts in Buffalo, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have forced the 1619 Project on their students. It’s smuggled into classrooms around the nation via intermediary organizations such as Facing History and the Zinn Education Project. The Pulitzer Center boasts that the 1619 Project’s already being taught in more than 3,500 classrooms in all 50 states.

The social justice warriors imposing the 1619 Project get away with their trademark blend of machine politics and reeducation camps because they can pretend that no one disagrees with them. The universities give them that excuse by never exposing the 1619 Project and Hannah-Jones to full and free criticism. They have abdicated their responsibility to their country. Their “honest dialogues” are so much propaganda for the 1619 Project’s campaign to require America’s children to slander their country if they want to graduate from high school.

Every college and university that gives Hannah-Jones a platform, carefully curated so she’ll never face an informed critic, is an accomplice to the 1619 Project propaganda campaign. Not one university, not one school of education, not one history department has set up a dialogue between an informed opponent of the 1619 Project and Nikole Hannah-Jones.

We know they can do better. Take the University of Virginia, whose “honest dialogue” is coming up on February 17. If the University of Virginia really wanted an “honest dialogue,” they’d invite Lucas Morel of Washington and Lee University to take part. Morel disagrees thoughtfully and profoundly with Hannah-Jones, he lives in Virginia, and he provides a model of civil conversation. Yet he isn’t there.

And it’s not as if Morel is alone in the country. There’s no end of scholars who oppose the 1619 Project. Their criticism has been published in media sites that run the gamut of American political opinion, from the World Socialist Web Site and The Atlantic to City Journal. They’ve written collective letters to protest the 1619 Project. Any university that wants to host a truly “honest conversation” can find no end of scholars to speak. Any of these scholars could speak civilly and authoritatively about the shortcomings of the 1619 Project:

William Allen, H. W. Brands, Michael Burlingame, Victoria Bynum, Clayborne Carson, Peter Coclanis, Hans Eicholz, Joseph Fornieri, Bruce Gilley, Allen Guelzo, Kevin Gutzman, K. C. Johnson, Peter Kolchin, Glenn LaFantasie, Glenn Loury, Wilfred McClay, Deirdre McCloskey, James McPherson, John McWhorter, James Oakes, Robert Paquette, George Rable, Adolph Reed, Jason Ross, Diana Schaub, Colleen Sheehan, Steven Smith, Sean Wilentz, Gordon Wood, and Michael Zuckert.

Americans should challenge our universities: Host a genuine “honest conversation,” or better yet an honest debate. Invite one of the critics of the 1619 Project to speak, and invite Hannah-Jones. If she won’t come, shine a spotlight on her empty chair.

Every day our universities fail to do their duty is another day they stand convicted of gross sins against intellectual freedom and rigorous inquiry, in the service of social justice machine politics in our K-12 education administration.

I challenge the universities to do their duty. They can acquit themselves of these charges at any moment. If they have the guts.

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About David Randall

David Randall is Director of Research at the National Association of Scholars.

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