Some of you will remember Sean Wilentz's letter to The New York Times criticizing the newspaper's 1619 Project. (RELATED: ‘It’s Embarrassing That The New York Times Is Doing This’: Conservatives React To The NYT ‘1619 Project’). Let’s take a look. Next, Wilentz moves on the Hannah-Jones’ claims about Lincoln. What we _don’t_ do is tell someone else that their interpretation contains “serious inaccuracies” just because they don’t arrange the evidence in the same way we might. There were no “growing calls” in London to abolish the trade as early as 1776. Submit a letter: Email us letters@nybooks.com. Again, this section is long so I’ll just consider a portion of his response to one specific claim from the 1619 Project: “Like many white Americans,” she wrote, Lincoln “opposed slavery as a cruel system at odds with American ideals, but he also opposed black equality.” This elides the crucial difference between Lincoln and the white supremacists who opposed him. One of the false assertions, according to Wilentz, is that Hannah-Jones suggested “by 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere.” He wrote that, in fact, “Britain was hardly conflicted at all in 1776 over its involvement in the slave system,” providing key historical details to back up his argument. organized the drafting and signing of the letter, together with Arthur Schlesinger jr (City Univ. “In the interest of historical accuracy, it is worth examining his denials and new claims in detail,” Wilentz began in Wednesday’s article. The historian’s article in The Atlantic followed Silverstein’s letter and pointed out key details that taint the “1619 Project.” Titled “A Matter Of Facts,” it delved into exactly how, in his view, the project is failing the American people and the country’s history. Last December, five historians—Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, James McPherson, Sean Wilentz, and James Oakes—took issue with the 1619 Project’s central and most contentious claim: that the nation’s founding date is not 1776 but a century and a half earlier. At the moment, the narrative seems to be winning out over the inconvenient facts. John SextonPosted at 1:01 pm on January 22, 2020. He begins with the claim by lead-author Nikole Hannah-Jones 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.” Not so, says Wilentz. Is There Another Scenario That Makes Justice Alito's Dec. 9 Response Date Meaningful in Different Way? The article notes numerous other instances where both the “1619 Project” and Silverstein’s defenses are incorrect. A Letter on Justice and Open Debate. “When describing history, more is at stake than the past,” according to Wilentz, who then invoked sociologist and civil rights activist W. E. B. The Times responded on December 20 in a letter … Harvard University Press, 350 pp., $26.95. In fact, he argues convincingly that British efforts to stop the international slave were inspired by prior colonial efforts: “By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere,” Hannah-Jones wrote. Historian Sean Wilentz dissected the New York Times’ controversial “1619 Project” in an article published Wednesday by The Atlantic after the publication refused to acknowledge its “factual errors.”. He denied that the project, which aims to “reframe” American history, contained any errors and offered evidence to disprove the historians’ case. Measures to abolish the trade also won approval in Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, and Virginia, but were denied by royal officials. Like the majority of white Americans of his time, including many radical abolitionists, Lincoln harbored the belief that white people were socially superior to black people. Michael Ignatieff, Laura Kipnis, Mark Lilla, Helen Vendler, Sean Wilentz, Thomas Chatterton Williams join others in Harper’s Magazine. You can read it here. All this has occurred even as practicing historians expressed skepticism about the relative historical value of the Project. The colonials’ motives were not always humanitarian: Virginia, for example, had more enslaved black people than it needed to sustain its economy and saw the further importation of Africans as a threat to social order. With the exception of Wilentz, all of these American historians criticized the 1619 Project at the World… Update: I asked Nikole Hannah-Jones if she planned to respond to Wilentz’ criticism: Granted this is the same critic, but his argument rebutting your claim about the causes of the Revolutionary War seems fairly clear cut and convincing. He led 2,100 historians in signing a letter regarding President Trump’s impeachment, and has written op-eds and articles for The Atlantic and The New Republic as well as The New York Review of Books. During that time, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island either outlawed the trade or imposed prohibitive duties on it. “No, the framers did not envisage a president refusing to step down or discuss what should be done in such a situation,” Princeton historian Sean Wilentz said. Sean Wilentz in the Wall Street Journal. The other signatories were historians Victoria Bynum, James McPherson, Sean Wilentz and James Oakes. It’s one thing to say ‘there might be an alternative way to look at this which has validity.’ It’s something else to state in America’s leading newspaper “one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery.” That does sound like a claim about undeniable facts rather than a point open to vigorous debate. of New York) and C. Vann Woodward (Yale Univ.). We can debate and respectfully disagree about this stuff — that’s what historians do. Guyatt seems to admit that Hannah-Jones hasn’t really substantiated it’s claim, it’s just that he believes it could do so given time and space. “…I’ve actually had a physically difficult working-class job”, Atlanta news station debunks “smoking gun” voter-fraud video, Twitter spat between Marco Rubio, AOC and Sarah Palin over hard work, Socialist Seattle City Councilmember’s recall appeal heads to Washington Supreme Court. LA restaurant owner rips Garcetti hypocrisy: Why shut me down while allowing a Hollywood canteen in my parking lot? His most recent book is No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. American democracy is in a perilous condition, and the Times can report on that danger only by upholding its standards “without fear or favor.” That is why it is so important that lapses such as those pointed out in our letter receive attention and timely correction. The five signatories assert their “strong reservations about important aspects of … WHISTLEBLOWER: I Drove 'Thousands of Ballots' From New York to Pennsylvania, CCPA - Do Not Sell My Personal Information, Princeton historian: The 1619 Project is ‘built on partial truths and misstatements of the facts’ (Update). That ruling did little, however, to reverse Britain’s devotion to human bondage, which lay almost entirely in its colonial slavery and its heavy involvement in the Atlantic slave trade. When describing history, more is at stake than the past. For newlyweds Caroline Cleaves and Sean Wilentz, there is a lot of common ground. I don’t think the critics are trying to “bring down” the 1619 Project. Sean Wilentz (Princeton Univ.) pic.twitter.com/vXyPkc6J1K, It’s impossible to say how many enslaved people already knew about Somerset; based on the work of Julius Scott & esp. Du Bois … In exposing the falsehoods of his racist adversaries, Du Bois became the upholder of plain, provable fact against what he saw as the Dunning School’s propagandistic story line.”, (RELATED: ‘It’s Embarrassing That The New York Times Is Doing This’: Conservatives React To The NYT ‘1619 Project’). “In place of Hannah-Jones’s statement that ‘the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain … because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery,’ Silverstein substituted ‘that uneasiness among slaveholders in the colonies about growing antislavery sentiment in Britain and increasing imperial regulation helped motivate the Revolution,'” Wilentz explained. — John Sexton (@verumserum) January 22, 2020. Disagree with them if you wish, but “serious inaccuracies”? 0.00 avg rating — 0 ratings. He was very critical of the 1619 Project and of Hannah-Jones’s work in particular and circulated a letter among historians in hopes of getting them to sign on. Rob Parkinson thinks this racial ‘othering’ was the glue of the Revolution. opinion, none of these assertions is marred by factual error. Sean Wilentz’s most popular book is The Conscience of a Conservative. In response, the NY Times published the letter along with a lengthy response denying that any corrections were necessary. Rumor has it that Princeton professor Sean Wilentz wrote the letter and lined up four others to co-sign: Victoria Bynum, James M. McPherson, James Oakes, and Gordon S. Wood. Today, Wilentz has written a piece for the Atlantic in which he addresses three false claims in the 1619 Project in more detail. Wilentz pointed out specific cases where the project’s reconstruction of the Civil War and Jim Crow contain “factual errors.”. It included Sean Wilentz and Gordon Wood, eminent historians respectively at Princeton and Brown, who are not conservative, and who joined three other renowned historians in firing off a letter to the New York Times requesting that it correct its many factual errors, starting with the falsehood that the colonists had waged war to protect slavery from Britain. (May 2020) I won’t include all of it but I will refer to the portions that are responsive to the criticisms I quoted above (you can click on any tweet and read the whole thing): In my professional (!) The NYT’s editor-in-chief Josh Silverstein previously said that the project is not wrong. Isn't some equally detailed response to his points needed at some point? In 1998, University professor Sean Wilentz drafted a letter — signed by over 400 historians — opposing the impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton. ... Major Problems in the Early Republic Plus Text Letter by. Wilentz’s main issues focus on “the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the long history of resistance to racism from Jim Crow to the present.” Wilentz ripped NYT writer Nikole Hannah-Jones’ lead essay about the Revolution to begin his analysis of the project’s faults. Sean Wilentz. Wilentz also ripped Silverstein in the article, noting that he “ignored the errors we had specified and then imputed to the essay a very different claim.” Silverstein’s claim came after the historians disagreed with the project’s argument that the Revolution was largely fought “to protect slavery.”. One side of this ongoing argument (the critics) are trying to talk about a handful of specific facts while the other side (the NY Times) is trying to spin a grand narrative. I hope to have something to share on this before too long, and would love to hear from others working in this area. Sean Wilentz’s ‘No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding’ June 6, 2019 issue. Regarding the Civil War, Wilentz reported that Hannah-Jones’ argument based on former President Abraham Lincoln “is built on partial truths and misstatements of the facts, which combine to impart a fundamentally misleading impression.” He also pointed out specific falsehoods peddled by the project regarding the Jim Crow era. “In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade,” Hannah-Jones continued. Twenty-one years later, Wilentz has penned another statement, which offers a very different message on impeaching a president. There’s much more to this section dealing with the Times’ response to this criticism, all of which is worth a look. As the historian Christopher Leslie Brown writes in his authoritative study of British abolitionism, Moral Capital, Sharp “worked tirelessly against the institution of slavery everywhere within the British Empire after 1772, but for many years in England he would stand nearly alone.” What Hannah-Jones described as a perceptible British threat to American slavery in 1776 in fact did not exist. But the Americans who attempted to end the trade did not believe that they were committing economic suicide. (See also Katherine Paugh’s fascinating work on the Mary Hylas case for a sense of how parallel legal decisions regarding gender and marriage freaked out planters in the colonies.) Five prominent historians penned a letter to the Times in December 2019, ... One was Sean Wilentz, ... Sean Collins is a writer based in New York. “No historian better expressed this point, as part of the broader imperative for factual historical accuracy, than W. E. B. To her credit, she replied (but has since deleted, here’s a screenshot): Nicholas Guyatt is a professor of American history at Cambridge. Monuments to a Complicated Past. Sean Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, won the Bancroft Prize for his 2005 “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln.” The other signatories of the letter are Victoria Bynum of Texas State University, James Oakes of the City University of New York, and Gordon S. Wood of Brown University. Sean Wilentz is the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of ­American History at Princeton. “The essay argues 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,'” according to Wilentz. Plus, he's a darned… Beyond Granville Sharp, he thinks there wasn’t much antislavery sentiment in GB before _American_ abolitionists got going in the 1780s. Princeton’s distinguished liberal historian Sean Wilentz absolutely pile-drives Jake Silverstein, Nikole Hannah-Jones, & the 1619 project: “No effort to educate the public…to advance social justice can afford to dispense with a respect for basic facts.” https://t.co/twvMmQVhF5 pic.twitter.com/GKoEmXM1X0, — Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) January 22, 2020. But just walk over there and eat.”, “If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”, “seems designed to make it awkward for a Democratic attorney general to come in and remove Durham”, “The contestants failed to meet their burden to provide credible and relevant evidence …”. Jul 10, 2020 Contributors in the News. Mostly peaceful protest in Olympia, Wash., turns less peaceful as protesters mix it up with Antifa (video), McConaughey, Russell Brand Sound Off on the Left's Elitist Attitude Toward Trump Voters. The historian ended his article in The Atlantic by once again urging the publication to consider the errors in its project. — Nicholas Guyatt (@NicholasGuyatt) January 22, 2020. “This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South,” Hannah-Jones wrote. “Before, during, and after the Civil War, some white people were always an integral part of the fight for racial equality,” Wilentz argued. He has written a lengthy thread replying to the piece. The signatories included academic historians from across the country at large universities and small colleges, as well as a few independent historians. 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After meeting with Lincoln at the White House, Sojourner Truth, the black abolitionist, said that he “showed as much respect and kindness to the coloured persons present as to the white,” and that she “never was treated by any one with more kindness and cordiality” than “by that great and good man.”, Wilentz writes, “particularly with regard to the ideas and actions of Abraham Lincoln, Hannah-Jones’s argument is built on partial truths and misstatements of the facts, which combine to impart a fundamentally misleading impression.”. The paths of transmission of these ideas — & of Somerset itself — require a greater & more careful analysis than keyword searching of newspaper databases. — Brent Staples (@BrentNYT) January 7, 2020. The letter from Professors Bynum, McPherson, Oakes, Wilentz and Wood differs from the previous critiques we have received in that it contains the first major request for correction. The idea has company: Over 850 legal scholars signed a letter earlier this month arguing that the president had engaged in “impeachable conduct.” He's a Democrat, an egalitarian, and generally progressive. All Rights Reserved. Sean Wilentz: A Matter of Facts - The Atlantic 3/6/20, 1140 AM https: ... Our letter applauded the project’s stated aim to raise public awareness and understanding of slavery’s central importance in our history. Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, James McPherson, Sean Wilentz, and James Oakes The historians’ letter. That’s fair enough I guess but it’s a lot less cut and dried than the flat claims (about the Revolutionary War, about Lincoln) made in the 1619 Project. Reviewed: No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding. But the movement in London to abolish the slave trade formed only in 1787, largely inspired, as Brown demonstrates in great detail, by American antislavery opinion that had arisen in the 1760s and ’70s. Why does a U.S. congressman side with Communist China? https://www.theatlantic.com/.../1619-project-new-york-times-wilentz/605152 Silverstein’s substitution “makes a large concession … about the errors in Hannah Jones’s essay,” Wilentz wrote. Every one of them, including Wilentz, has said they think the Project is a worthy goal. Princeton’s Sean Wilentz is one of five historians who sent a letter to the NY Times last month requesting that the paper address factual errors in the 1619 Project. Save this story for later. Lincoln asserted on many occasions, most notably during his famous debates with the racist Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, that the Declaration of Independence’s famous precept that “all men are created equal” was a human universal that applied to black people as well as white people. Despite this, many on the left clearly see these criticisms as a revanchist attempt to undo progressive gains in the retelling of American history. 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