Media

Historians Rip Into The New York Times After It Refuses To Address Requests For Corrections To The ‘1619 Project’

DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
Font Size:
  • The NYT published an editor’s response Thursday alongside a letter from five historians expressing concern over the controversial “1619 Project.”
  • The historians requested that the NYT issue substantial corrections to the project, and the publication declined to do so.
  • Some of the historians responded to the NYT’s refusal to issue corrections, expressing dismay and concern in comments to the Daily Caller Sunday.

Historians expressed their dismay to the Daily Caller on Sunday after the New York Times refused to comply to their request for corrections involving the controversial “1619 Project.”

The “1619 Project” is made up of multiple stories and poems about racism and slavery. It suggests America’s “true founding” was when the first slaves arrived in 1619, and it “aims to reframe the country’s history.” The project has already been implemented in some public schools around the country.

The NYT refused to issue any corrections, it announced Thursday, despite a letter written by five historians concerned about the project’s “misleading” and “factual errors.” Some of the historians that signed onto the original letter expressed frustration and concern to the Daily Caller at the NYT’s unwillingness to issue corrections.

Profs. Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James M. McPherson of Princeton University, James Oakes of the City University of New York, Sean Wilentz of Princeton University and Gordon S. Wood of Brown University signed the original letter published Thursday in the NYT.

“In the long run the Project will lose its credibility, standing, and persuasiveness with the nation as a whole,” Wood wrote in a follow-up letter he sent to the NYT following the response by Jake Silverstein, NYT Magazine’s editor-in-chief.

The letter was obtained by the Daily Caller Sunday.

“I fear it will eventually hurt the cause rather than help it. We all want justice, but not at the expense of truth. I have spent my career studying the American Revolution and cannot accept the view that ‘one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.'”

Oakes highlighted that the NYT “has not addressed our many citations of factual errors” even after the letter was sent.

“The Times has not addressed our many citations of factual errors,” Oakes said in an email to the Daily Caller Sunday. “I am particularly distressed by Matt Desmond’s essay. It is based on a body of scholarship that has been subjected to severe criticism by experts in the field, experts who San [sic] the spectrum from mainstream economists to Marxist sociologists.”

“As a result Desmond repeats claims that cannot be substantiated by the evidence.”

Desmond’s essay, published Aug. 14, claims that slavery is the foundation of capitalism. The Princeton University sociologist went further to argue that almost every modern business has stemmed from slavery.

Bynum, McPherson and Wilentz did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. (RELATED: ‘It’s Embarrassing That The New York Times Is Doing This’: Conservatives React To The NYT ‘1619 Project’)

Written by journalists and opinion writers, the “1619 Project” has been slammed since its inception in Aug. 2019 by conservatives and historians.

The five historians requested that the publication issue “prominent corrections of all the errors and distortions” published in the project. The NYT declined to issue any correction, writing that they “welcome criticism” but “don’t believe that the request for corrections … is warranted.”

In the letter to the editor, the historians cited specific examples of what they believe are factual errors and misleading commentary currently published in the project. One notable issue is the project’s depiction of the American Revolution.

“On the American Revolution, pivotal to any account of our history, the project asserts that the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain ‘in order to ensure slavery would continue,'” the historians’ letter to the editor reads. “This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding — yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false.”

The historians also took issue with how the “1619 Project” portrayed “Abraham Lincoln’s views on racial equality.” The project “ignores his conviction that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed universal equality,” according to the letter published in the NYT.

The NYT defended its decision not to issue any corrections, writing that “numerous scholars of African-American history and related fields” were consulted prior to the project launching.

The publication argued that “historical understanding is not fixed” and that equality has still not been achieved for “black Americans” today.

“The letter misperceives our attitudes when it charges that we dismiss objections on racial grounds,” Silverstein wrote. “Though we may disagree on some important matters, we are grateful for their input and their interest in discussing these fundamental questions about the country’s history.”

The New York Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Daily Caller.