Commentary: Behind the Historically Inaccurate ‘1619 Project’ Lies a Marxist Agenda

by Mike Gonzalez


The 1619 Project wraps itself in Old Glory — literally; actors in the Hulu version of the project often appear cloaked in the flag. But don’t let that fool you: the project is yet another attempt to brainwash you into believing your country is racist, evil, and needs revolutionary transformation.

The project’s founder, Nikole Hannah-Jones, deserves credit for chutzpah. She distorts the truth to forward this nefarious goal, but she’s gotten very far.

She has convinced the New York Times, schools across the country and now Hulu, to carry the 1619 Project she created nearly four years ago. She’s now a professor at Howard University, the nation’s best known Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

In fact, she opened the university’s “Journalism & Democracy Center” there on November, 2022. Our 44th president, Barack Obama, sent in a video to hail Hannah-Jones for her “historically informed journalism” at the “Democracy Summit” that accompanied the opening.

She is also receiving $35,350 from the public library at Fairfax, Va., and the nearby McLean Community Center for a one-hour talk on Feb. 19. That’s a very cool $589 per minute — paid by local taxpayers, including those who disagree with her project.

And this week, in a sign that she will not brook dissent, the Fairfax County Library has been emailing members alerting them Hannah-Jones has requested a “moderated conversation.” The county’s “chief equity officer” will do the job.

One could easily argue that Hannah-Jones’s work is not journalism, historically accurate, nor very helpful to democracy.

Hannah-Jones calls herself an “investigative reporter,” and yet she’s rewriting the nation’s history, or rather inventing a new narrative. Historians, including those on the left, have taken issue with her interpretation of facts.

The project makes the fanciful claim that the real start of the United States was not what Americans celebrate every July 4 — the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

No. The real start of the United States was the beginning of slavery with the arrival in 1619 of a pirate ship with 20 Africans who were sold to the colonists. Everything about America for the next 404 years, right down to today, has to do with slavery.

Some historians take issue with all that. The president of the National Association of Scholars, Dr. Peter Wood, says that “The Africans were treated as indentured servants and soon released.” Hannah-Jones, he adds, “portrays slavery as starting in Jamestown in 1619 and spreading from there to become the bedrock of American society. That’s a false history, a myth.”

Central to her work is the claim that the Founding Fathers and other colonists decided to break with Britain because they feared that the Mother Country was going to end slavery.

When she first wrote this in the New York Times Magazine in 2019, historians complained so loudly that the newspaper, apparently loathe to contradict such a central claim in a full correction, issued instead what it called a “clarification.”

“We recognize that our original language could be read to suggest that protecting slavery was a primary motivation for all of the colonists,” said the paper in March 2020. “The passage has been changed to make clear that this was a primary motivation for some of the colonists.”

Undeterred, Hannah-Jones has repeated the claim in the new Hulu series. Now the stress is on the then-governor of the Virginia colony, the Earl of Dunmore, John Murray. The colonists, she now contends, only made up their mind to fight Britain when Dunmore promised to free those slaves who fought for Britain.

Except, as writes economic historian Phillip Magness, the colonists had already made up their minds. In fact, Dunmore, a ruthless slave owner himself, issued his promise from aboard the HMS William, where he had taken refuge months earlier fearing the already rebelling colonists.

So historical accuracy is not a forte of Hannah-Jones. But how about democracy?

In a 2019 interview with Vox, Hannah-Jones praised enslaved, communist Cuba, where no one has voted for president since 1948 and the government violates human rights constantly, as a paragon of racial equality.

“If you want to see the most equal, multiracial, it’s not a democracy, but the most equal multiracial country in our hemisphere, it would be Cuba. . . . Cuba has the least inequality between black and white people of any place in the hemisphere,” she said, then adding, “That’s largely due to socialism.”

Hannah-Jones does what she does in order to effect what would be one of the largest wealth transfers in U.S. history — racial reparations, estimated at around $13 trillion, to be paid to African-Americans by other Americans. She made this clear in a June 30, 2020 essay, in which she wrote, “If we are to be redeemed, if we are to live up to the magnificent ideals upon which we were founded, we must do what is just. It is time for this country to pay its debt. It is time for reparations.”

That’s why she must present her country in a bad light. My method is guilt,” she told an audience at the University of Chicago in October 2019. 

She’s not the first person to distort history for Marxist ends. That title would probably go to Howard Zinn, and his malicious 1980 textbook, “A People’s History of the United States.”

But like Zinn, she’s mastered the art of propaganda. And she’s quite comfortable doing it far from the squalor of her beloved Cuba, where five-figure speaking fees are a pipe dream.

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Mike Gonzalez is the Angeles T. Arredondo E Pluribus Unum Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and author of, “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution.”
Photo “Nikole Hannah-Jones” by Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo. CC BY 2.0.



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