Last Weekend, there was enough debate about the 1619 Project that I wanted to put together some of my basic thoughts.
- Perspective. The ultimate significance of the #1619 Project is that it replaces the “Founding Fathers” with Black American history as the center of the American national narrative.
- Nikole Hannah-Jones sketches out a history of the Middle Passage, slavery, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights movement as the primary current of democratic progress in the U.S. Working from a multicultural premise, black leaders and black culture worked out a more effective concept of universal liberty than the white authors of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
- An Objection: Hannah-Jones portrays Black Americans as “perfecting” an American Democracy which can be seen in the Constitution in a form distorted by slavery and white supremacy. To the contrary, the 18th century founding of the U.S. established a “White Republic” and the current political crisis can be seen in terms of a determined backlash against the transition to a multiracial and socially liberal democracy.
- Necessity. For political and cultural reasons, the history of black people in the U.S. needs to be seen as the backbone of multiracial, socially liberal democracy.
- Permutations. Hannah-Jones writes about the way in which the Black Civil Rights Movement provided a model and impetus for other populations. “But the laws born out of black resistance guarantee the franchise for all and ban discrimination based not just on race but on gender, nationality, religion and ability.” Indeed, campaigns for feminism and the rights of LGBT, immigrants, natives, and the disabled have all been permutations of the Black Civil Rights Movement.