Oxford Historian Carwardine: 1619 Project “Preposterous” And “Tendentious”

As well as the essay I have read your interviews with James McPherson and James Oakes. I share their sense that, putting it politely, this is a tendentious and partial reading of American history.

I understand where this Project is coming from, politically and culturally. Of course, the economic well-being of the United States and the colonies that preceded it was constructed for over two-and-a-half centuries on the labor and sufferings of slaves; of course, like all entrenched wielders of power, the white political elite resisted efforts to yield up its privileges. But the idea that the 1619 Project’s lead essay is a rounded history of America—with relations between the races so stark and unyielding—I find quite shocking. I am troubled that this is designed to make its way into classrooms as the true story of the United States, because, as I say, it is so partial. It is also wrong in some fundamentals.

I’m all for recovering and celebrating the history of those whose voices have been historically muted and I certainly understand the concern of historians in recent times, black and white, that the black contribution to the United States has not been fully recognized. But the idea that the central, fundamental story of the United States is one of white racism and that black protest and rejection of white superiority has been the essential, indispensable driving force for change—which I take to be the central message of that lead essay—seems to me to be a preposterous and one-dimensional reading of the American past.

Richard Carwardine, Oxford Historian On The NYT 1619 Project (Dec 31, 2019)

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Dr. Clark,
    Thank you for posting this quote. As a result of it, I wanted to explore the political conditions pushing to reconstruct history. I began by reading the interview of James McPherson, who was ignored by NYT. His broad brush on the complex history of the Civil War uncovers the lack of reliable research of the 1619 Project. Also the MOTIVES of the NYT seem to support the divisive condition of intersectionality. Changing history by rewriting it results in tyranny.

    I was planning to re-read RCC and Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry this first month of 2020. I am grateful for your commitment to original, credible research and evidence before you write.

    May He permeate our lives in the New Year with the Peace and Calm of His Son, our Savior and Lord, in Heaven,

    • Catherine,

      Thanks for this. The same website, the worldwide socialists (!) have run a series of critiques of the 1619 Project. I think it’s fascinating that the SOCIALISTS are unhappy with the methodology of the 1619 Project. Certainly no one can accuse the Socialists of being on the side of the “oppressor” etc. The critiques have been quite damning. The kind of “history” being published in the NYT in the 1619 project is the result of young people who learned their American history from Howard Zinn’s steaming pile of rubbish, A People’s History.

  2. How do you talk about history in a post-truth society? Who’s truth are we discussing here? What is truth? (John 18:38) I’m a history buff and have found that liberals and I have trouble agreeing on what happened a day ago when we both saw the same thing, much less on what happened in 1619.

    Darryl’s tweet said that the NYT sold issues of the 1619 project like gangbusters. The take-away was that race sells….

  3. Methinks the usual suspects had to come up with the 1619 Project because things like the 2016 Project – Russiagate – and the 2012 Project- The Trayvon Martin/Geo. Zimmerman Affair/ Black Lies Matter Project – are a bust. (Same goes for the 2019 Project or Ukrainegate in which the current Republican President is accused of doing what the previous Democrat Vice Prez openly confessed to doing at the time. Go figure. )

    True, the recent Suleimani Assasination Incident may trump all, if not effectively distract the electorate and their betters in the 4th Estate, but really. If Robert Mueller didn’t scotch the 2016 (and Joel Gilbert the major witness fraud in the 2012) the credulity of the American public is irrevocably subpar. Hence the need for a new schtick regarding the lib progressive theme that never grows old: America as Racist From the Get Go and Now More Than Ever in 2020 Whatever The War Between the States Entailed.

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