The New York Times, without announcement or explanation, has abandoned the central claim of the 1619 Project: that 1619, the year the first slaves were brought to Colonial Virginia—and not 1776—was the “true founding” of the United States.
The initial introduction to the Project, when it was rolled out in August 2019, stated that
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from the New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
The revised text now reads:
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.
A similar change was made from the print version of the 1619 Project, which has been sent out to millions of school children in all 50 states. The original version read:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. America was not yet America, but this was the moment it began. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the 250 years of slavery that followed.
The website version has deleted the key claim. It now reads:
In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the English colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed.
It is not entirely clear when the Times deleted its “true founding” claim, but an examination of old cached versions of the 1619 Project text indicates that it probably took place on December 18, 2019.
These deletions are not mere wording changes. The “true founding” claim was the core element of the Project’s assertion that all of American history is rooted in and defined by white racial hatred of blacks. According to this narrative, trumpeted by Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, the American Revolution was a preemptive racial counterrevolution waged by white people in North America to defend slavery against British plans to abolish it. The fact that there is no historical evidence to support this claim did not deter the Times and Hannah-Jones from declaring that the historical identification of 1776 with the creation of a new nation is a myth, as is the claim that the Civil War was a progressive struggle aimed at the destruction of slavery. According to the New York Times and Hannah-Jones, the fight against slavery and all forms of oppression were struggles that black Americans always waged alone.
The Times’ “disappearing,” with a few secret keystrokes, of its central argument, without any explanation or announcement, is a stunning act of intellectual dishonesty and outright fraud. When it launched the 1619 Project in August 2019, the Times proclaimed that its aim was to radically change what and how students were taught about American history. With the aim of creating a new syllabus based on the 1619 Project, hundreds of thousands of copies of the original version of the narrative, as published in the New York Times Magazine, were printed and distributed to schools, museums and libraries all across the United States. A very large number of schools declared that they would align their curricula in accordance with the narrative supplied by the Times.