No One Year Can Unlock the Meaning of America

Sign commemorating the arrival of the first Africans at Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, Va., August 24, 2019. (Michael A. McCoy/Reuters)
The New York Times’s 1619 Project and some of its critics fall prey to the same error in seeking to explain our nation’s history.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W hen did America begin? Well, the United States became a country in 1776 and drafted a constitution in 1787. Seems simple enough, right?

Yet many Americans remain unsatisfied with such an obvious answer. Last year, the New York Times gained wide attention with its claim that any account of America’s origins must begin in August 1619, when a Flemish privateer stopped near Point Comfort and sold “twenty and odd Negroes” to the colonists of Virginia. The Times’ 1619 Project went on to document the pervasiveness and cruelty of African slavery in the English colonies that became the United States, and its


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