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Politics & Policy

Historians vs. the ‘1619 Project’

Well, I can’t say I expected it to be the International Committee of the Fourth International that most effectively ripped the New York Times‘s “1619 Project” apart, but here we are. I’d heartily recommend these devastating interviews with Gordon S. Wood, James McPherson, and James Oakes, all of which have been published on that known hotbed of conservative reaction and racial whitewashing, the World Socialist Web Site.

The lead author of the “1619 Project,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, has responded to the criticisms leveled by Wood, McPherson, and co. by saying, effectively, “well, they’re just biased white guys.” But they’re not. They’re authorities in their spheres, and they’re perfectly placed to see that the “1619 Project” is full of essays that begin with their conclusions and work backward. Of Gordon S. Wood, David Hackett Fischer wrote recently in the New York Times:

Gordon S. Wood is more than an American historian. He is almost an American institution. Of all the many teachers and writers of history in this Republic, few are held in such high esteem.


More important than his productivity is the quality of his work, and its broad appeal to readers of the right, left and center — a rare and happy combination.

Of James McPherson’s magisterial Battle Cry Of Freedom, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote:

Arguably among the greatest single-volume histories in all of American historiography, James McPherson’s synthesis of the Civil War is a stunning achievement. Brisk in pace. A big-ass book that reads like a much slimmer one. The first few hundred pages offer a catalogue of evidence, making it clear not just that the white South went to war for the right to own people, but that it warred for the right to expand the right to own people. Read this book. You will immediately be less stupid than some of the most powerful people in the West Wing.

Or, dare I say, than some of the most powerful people at the New York Times.


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